Anyone who works internationally must be represented internationally. That maxim brought together 150 representatives of maritime and port trade unions and members of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) for its 2019 Maritime Round Table in Colombo, Sri Lanka this September.
Nautilus International officials Piet Doerflinger (Nautilus Switzerland) and Liselotte Struijs (Nautilus NL) attended the event alongside general secretary Mark Dickinson. Together they strengthened international contacts, exchanged information and experiences, and developed additional trade union skills.
The future of unions is in shared activism, and more and more often that is digital, attendees heard. Several ITF campaign plans were kick-started in Colombo, including how to increase the number of young people and women in shipping.
A working group was introduced to five of the first 10 female crane operators in Sri Lanka and heard about the problems they are experiencing, such as underpayment, discrimination and intimidation, with male colleagues trying to push them out of the workplace by lubricating their ladders with grease.
Another group looked at how flexible and contract workers could be united with permanent contracts in order to secure pay and conditions.
Information was also shared about the health risks that maritime professionals run during their careers.
Criminalisation of seafarers
The ITF used the forum to repeat calls on the Sri Lankan authorities to release Ukrainian captain Gennadiy Gavrylov, who has been held in the country since his arrest on 23 June 2016 in connection with a police investigation into the Sri Lankan flagged vessel Avant Garde. In 2015 Capt Gavrylov temporarily manned the Avant Garde, which was used for (armed) maritime protection and piracy prevention. The ship was confiscated by the Sri Lankan authorities and forced to enter Sri Lankan waters. Capt Gavrylov was accused of illegal arms imports. Since then, he has been forbidden from having contact with his family, working and traveling back to his home country.
His family is experiencing major problems due to his absence and lack of income. Capt Gavrylov himself is affected by heart problems.
'International law is clear on the rights of individuals who are subject to detention by state authorities, if any person is arrested or detained on a criminal charge, they should be allowed to stand trial or released within a reasonable time,' ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said.
The IFT and the Sri Lankan maritime trade union have since declared their solidarity and have joined forces to find a solution to secure his release.