RMTU Women's Conference Report - Karen East

Published: 23 Sep 2019

I like to thank Mich-Elle Myers, the National Women’s Committee and the Rail Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) for the invitation to attend the Women’s Forum in Wellington, New Zealand, on July22 and the Ports Forum on 23 and 24.

Thank you to Ruth Blakeley for looking after us.

The Women’s Forum opened with introductions and part One of Formalising a Women’s Structure.

Danielle Whakatihi spoke about her role as Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Advisor. In the Defence Forces Union. Making changes and delivering a 3-hr training package, Sexual Ethics and Respectful Relationships Training.

Diane Edwards from the port of Auckland delivered a ‘’Hire Women and Men work harder” Discussing their training with a simulator, briefly on automation and the future of jobs in the port. This inspired much conversation that evening amongst the girls. Diane also touched on Wisata. Women in Shipping and Trading Association. New Zealand and International.

Mich-Elle Myers delivered the “Right the flush campaign” with Deb Brown Rebecca Hauck and Lisa Davidson. These Women’s stories horrified me, that this day and age women and in a lot of cases men too do not have facilities for the basic of human functions. Toilet. One woman driving a train was not permitted to stop to use the available facilities when needed but expected to carry on keeping to schedule. Pee in a plastic bag in a bin to take home with you. Also, no facilities for women’s monthly needs. Some women had their own little tent that they would pop up on the side of the train track so they could squat with some degree of privacy. Unbelievable. The global stories roll in.

Karen Fletcher spoke on “Fighting Fatigue for Safety”. Shiftwork and fatigue management. The need for a least two consecutive days break to combat fatigue after coming off night shift.

Formalise Women’s Structure Part Two was next on the agenda. Ruth Blakeley was stepping down from her position as National Women’s rep and there had been voting to elect another women to take her place. Was a very close election with the reigns being handed over to Rebecca Hauck. Congratulations Rebecca. A structure was drafted with women from both islands and metropolitan, both rail and ports coming together to create a great and promising future.

After lunch we did a solidarity message for DP world Australia from all of us.

Julie Anne Genter spoke about her experience as a woman in Parliament and her long-term view on rail and coastal shipping. Q and As.

This has been an awesome experience for me, meeting other women working in the different environments they all do, having the same challenges and issues that many of us do in our places of employment. Racism, gender harassment and lack of respect, lack of sanitary facilities and provisions for leave for pregnancy.

To the women of the RMTU I met in Wellington at this forum. I take my hat off to you all. You extended your friendship comradeship and hospitality. I wish you all the best for the future.






RMTU Ports Forum

Following on from the Women’s Forum in Wellington was a 2-day Ports Forum.

The theme being.” Building Working People’s’ Power”: Inside and Outside the Port Gates”

The first morning opened with Sam Huggard General Secretary NZCTU and NZCTU Strategic Campaign “Winning the next round of employment law reform/ Fair Pay Agreements.

There are no jobs on a dead planet, and this was the bottom line for much discussion including climate change, fossil fuels, employment relations, collective bargaining. Rights to access collective bargaining, pay rates and redundancy.


A legal update from Geoff Davenport was informative and rounded out the morning.

Lunchtime saw majority of the women present attend a Pro Abortion Reform rally that was being held outside Parliament that day. At the moment it is a crime to have an abortion or perform one in New Zealand and witnessing the amount of people, not just women but also men, that attended this rally, the law must change.


The afternoon started with a case study and workshop of a mooring line incident 1st Feb 2018. Using the red card in real time incident with Hazel Armstrong and Karen Fletcher. Work safe NZ and Maritime NZ sat in on this session and discussed their NZ Ports safety strategy.


Last session for the day was an interactive session. Building Power Inside and Outside the Gates. Discussing community-based organising, political organising, supporting other unions. Living wage campaign. Presented by John Kerr. South Island Organiser. This was a great session making you think just how practical, how hard or how easy is this to do. How to involve members and how tangible is it to achieve results.

Day 2

Starting with roll call and an Update on Fatigue Management Campaign.

A progress report on what has has/is being done and when. Also, an interactive session testing your reaction speed. “The Fighter pilot Challenge”. This has been used in studies of shift work, jet lag driving abilities attention and performance.

Mich-Elle Myers delivered the “Right to Flush Campaign for the members.


John Kerr and Dave Marden talked about Automation. It is not just big machinery. The effect this is having on our industries. Not just Rail and Maritime but every part of our lives. Working recreational and everyday living.


Thought provoking and at time downright scary, the future is on its way “Growing Power in a Branch” Nelson Port. This was a case study and interactive session on what has worked in one of NZ most vibrant Ports. Ann Wells, Allan Addison-Sape and Todd Valster. What a team. Hats off to this crew.


Thankyou all at RMTU.

In Unity

Karen East


I will stand up

I will speak out

I will take action




Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney