Dockers & Seafarers

Maritime Roundtable 2016:
Montreal, Canada 20-23 September

A year on - MRT contacts in action

Since attending the MRT me and colleagues from my union have kept in touch with other participants. Mainly through facebook because it’s an easy tool, but sometimes through SMS and calling each other as well.

Two of those contacts I made I have kept in close touch with.

The first is Viktors Panasjuks from Latvia. He works in Liepaja as a docker and is a union leader for local port workers’ in the UTAF (Water Transport Union’s Federation of Latvia). When Viktors came to Brussels for an ETF meeting in April we spoke about what he could do in the city and if he could visit the Port of Antwerp where I am based. Through my union, ACV Transcom I was able to arrange a visit for Viktors to OCHA which is our dockers training school. I also arranged for him to visit the PSA container terminal berth 1742 where I worked for PSA as a foreman (take a look at the photo).

We were also able to sort out a visit to the place where we work now with our pool system in Antwerp.

ACV provided Viktors with lots of information about our CBAs, our training systems and the rules of work here in Belgium. Viktors would use the information from us at a state educational programme where there is a drive to introduce a dockers’ professional standard for the first time in Latvian history. He also used our educational system and our employment structure as an example. At the end of his visit Viktors was really satisfied and said he and his comrades would be very pleased to meet with representatives of Belgian dockers in any of the Latvian ports.

The other contact I now work with following the MRT is Oleg Grygoriuk from MTWTU in Odessa in the Ukraine. Our union has invited him and other union reps from the Ukraine to come to Antwerp on a visit. Not only will this be useful for our maritime section but also our road transport section as we have many Ukrainian truck drivers here working in Belgium!

The MRT was built around workshops and that’s what gave us the opportunity to make contact and really work together on making lasting connections.

The value of MRT can't be measured in figures and results only. We can't underestimate the spirit and moral strength which where given to all of us through MRT. The feeling that we belong to that one big family of dockers and seafarers that have a future. This is just one example of positive outcomes of the MRT, and I’m sure others who participated actively during the event will have made new contacts and strengthened solidarity!

I believe that together we are stronger and events like the MRT are a great way of getting us together, and hopefully keeping us together too.

Posted by: Marc Storms ACV-Transcom