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Activism special: attend a Nautilus conference

13 April 2023

For many Nautilus members, taking part in one of the Union's conferences is their first step into activism. Sarah Robinson looks at what's on offer

What exactly is a trade union? At its heart is the principle of strength in numbers: a group of workers in a particular company or industry who join together to negotiate better pay and conditions.

That group of workers then often find that they can have an influence at national and international level, and their union develops strategic campaigns. Meanwhile, the union will have become an organisation with employed staff as well as volunteers, and it needs to adhere to legal requirements around reporting and accountability to members.

It is this accountability that is the main driver behind Nautilus International's conferences – but these events have so much more to offer than asking members to approve the Union's financial statements and reports.

Set your Union's agenda

We are a community governed by elected representatives, and our policies are set by a vote of members at our conferences. Members propose motions containing ideas for new policies or campaign priorities, which are then debated at the conference and adopted as resolutions (official policy) if a majority of full members vote in favour. Experiences are shared and strong opinions expressed, so the debates can get fiery!

Nautilus member Catherine Wannell proposes a motion at the 2022 UK Branch Conference arguing that the Union should campaign for an end to the Offshore Wind Workers' Concession. Image: Brad Wakefield

Boost your professional development

Wherever possible, Nautilus conferences include a symposium where members can learn more about important developments in the industry from expert speakers and ask questions of those really in the know.

You can also lay the groundwork for future career changes by networking with people from other workplaces and learning about ideas and opportunities.

Get more involved with Nautilus

There is a fantastic feeling of solidarity and empowerment at our conferences, and the small spark of activism that prompts you to attend can develop into a burning desire to fight for seafarers' rights.

You may find yourself inspired to stand for election to the Union's Council, to become a lay representative in your workplace or to speak out as a Nautilus Champion. It has all happened before.

Have a good time

Nautilus conferences aren't all about business. They are held in pleasant settings and can also include outings like ship and museum visits, and this is how you get that sense of a union being a community.

Nautilus members and staff get to know each other at the 2022 UK Branch Conference dinner on the historic ship SS Great Britain. Image: Brad Wakefield

Choose your Nautilus conference

The big one is the Nautilus International General Meeting. This is held every four years and is open to members from all three of the Union's national branches: UK, Netherlands and Switzerland. It's exciting to meet like-minded people from so many different places, and there can be a powerful cross-fertilisation of ideas. The General Meeting takes place every four years, each time in a different location, with Rotterdam chosen in 2019 and Liverpool the host city for 2023.

In between the General Meetings, there are opportunities to attend National Branch Conferences. Due to differences in national trade union law, the Nautilus Netherlands and Switzerland branches hold their conferences each year, while the UK branch conference is every two years.

The national branch conferences have an obligation to carry out 'union business' in the same way as the General Meeting, but the policy decisions made there apply only to the relevant country. The branch conferences are just as inspirational and enjoyable as the General Meeting, and you'll hear when they're coming up through your branch communications.

Sign up for the 2023 General Meeting today

The good news for budding union activists is that there is a General Meeting this year, and you can register your interest right now via the 2023 General Meeting page.


Become a Nautilus member today