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Maritime unions gather to strengthen South Pacific unionism

Maritime unions gather to strengthen South Pacific trade unionism

Maritime Unions have met in Auckland, New Zealand, to work towards a Regional Maritime Federation to build union strength throughout the South Pacific.

The meeting brought together the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ), the Papua New Guinea Maritime and Transport Workers Union (MTWU), the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) and the Merchant Service Guild (MSG).

All are affiliates of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).

ITF president and national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia Paddy Crumlin said the purpose and focus of the federation is to strengthen the capacity of the unions in the transport sector to effectively represent the interests of their members, as well as to increase the capacity of the union movement in the region.

Mr Crumlin said it was a positive development to have a number of observer unions present at the meeting who played important roles in the maritime industry.

"What we are seeking to do is form a Regional Maritime Federation with a real structure that is accountable, with proper rules, so we can sit with employers in the region and talk about how we can deliver productivity and safety," Mr Crumlin said.

"There are many areas of common interest we are working on, including the growing offshore resources sector and the fisheries sector."

ITF acting general secretary Steve Cotton added: "It's great to see strong ITF unions working together to strengthen not only their members' rights, but also to address issues regionally and internationally. This move makes trade unionism stronger."

The Maritime Union of New Zealand hosted the meeting. MUNZ national secretary Joe Fleetwood said the international and global nature of the maritime industry required an international approach by unions.

"In the globalised economy, unions must operate globally to ensure we are not isolated by national borders while corporate interests dominate international supply chains," Mr Fleetwood said.

"The Regional Maritime Federation has the potential to build start a dialogue with other maritime and transport unions in our region."

The Auckland meeting follows an inaugural meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in November 2013.

MTWU national secretary Reg McAlister said that there were potentially tens of thousands of workers who could be unionised in PNG, across the burgeoning oil and gas and fisheries sectors.

"In PNG, trade unionism is very much in its infancy. Working together is what unions are all about and international solidarity can only benefit developing nations like ours," Mr McAlister said.


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