When Nautilus talks about 'organising', we mean how the Union brings people together in the workplace to negotiate and campaign as a group for better terms and conditions.

How we organise

Encouraging employees to join a union (recruitment) is the basic tenet of trade union organising – there is strength in numbers. Organising also involves working with members to ensure they have the leadership, support, training and resources they need to achieve their collective goals.

In the interests of members, Nautilus seeks to establish constructive relationships with employers, through collective bargaining agreements (also known as recognition agreements), Partnership at Work committees and strategic partnerships nationally and internationally.

Our lay representatives play an important part in our organising work – recruiting and supporting fellow members in their own workplace. Members should approach their lay rep or an official in the Organising department about employment issues such as unfair dismissal, disciplinary action or grievance procedures, and for support in workplace bullying and harassment cases.

Personnel from the Organising department administer several of the Nautilus member forums, and work closely with lay reps. They also produce bulletins to inform members of the latest developments in pay and conditions negotiations with their company.


Many Nautilus members sign up because colleagues (including lay reps) have recommended the Union and encouraged them to join. Research has shown time and again that most people join a union because another member in their workplace has spoken to them directly about the benefits of membership.

In addition, all Nautilus personnel who have front-line contact with maritime professionals are charged with recruiting new members whenever the opportunity arises. Our industrial organisers encourage employees to join the Union when they visit ships, maritime offices, nautical colleges etc, and our dedicated recruitment team run recruitment drives in certain sectors, colleges and at maritime events. There's more about the role of our industrial organisers and recruitment team on the Secretariat page.

Union recognition and collective bargaining

An important feature of the organising process is to achieve 'recognition' for Nautilus wherever possible. This means that employees' terms and conditions will be governed by a collective bargaining (recognition) agreement between the company and the Union.

The drive to achieve recognition usually comes where there is a group of Nautilus members all working in the same 'bargaining unit' at a company (which might mean that they are on the same vessel, for example, or in the same department). The members will ask the Union to help them set up meetings with their management and work out a collective bargaining agreement. Usually, employers are happy to cooperate, and the agreement is drawn up on a voluntary basis. Nautilus prides itself on working with employers on a basis of mutual respect, and many companies with a voluntary agreement take the process of cooperation to the next level, adopting a partnership approach.

However, sometimes recognition has to be achieved through a statutory process. In the UK, a company is obliged to recognise a union if more than 40% of employees in a particular bargaining unit are members of this union, and the process of reaching a statutory agreement is often overseen by the Central Arbitration Service.

A statutory recognition agreement will cover the basics of pay, working hours and holiday leave, while a voluntary recognition agreement also allows members to negotiate additional terms for their contracts, including study leave, training support and maternity/paternity leave. Both types of recognition agreement include provision for collective bargaining to take place at regular intervals, in order to review the pay rates and conditions in the agreement.

Works councils

In the Netherlands, many Nautilus members are involved in their company's works council, which is a body of employees working for the good of the enterprise and its personnel. Under Dutch law, it is compulsory for a works council to be set up by all employers with 50 or more employees, and smaller companies are also required to consult regularly with their staff on an informal basis.

The employer must obtain the works council's consent for any decision concerning the rules on labour-related matters, including working hours and holidays, payment systems and job evaluation schemes, and health and safety at work. The council's consent is not, however, required in cases where the matter concerned is already regulated by a collective bargaining agreement.

Unions such as Nautilus provide support for works council activity, and the works council can offer members a useful forum for defending their interests in the workplace.

Lay representatives

Nautilus supports its lay representatives by running training courses – there's more about these on the Participation section. In addition, each lay rep is supported by an industrial organiser.

Become a Nautilus member today