Shipowners are gnawing at us. We’re biting back next week.

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It’s never been clearer that dockworkers and seafarers labour on the front lines of globalization. It’s equally clear that much of the shipping industry — through lack of discipline, lack of regulation and eternal and blindly optimistic greed — is now teetering on the brink of insolvency. Everywhere transport-trade unionists look, we see employers trying to stop the hemorrhaging — most often on the backs of workers. The most cynical of corporations are actually seizing the moment to regroup and to redouble their assaults on workers.

For all workers, the answer is to join hands and resist with equal determination.

The ITF is leading that movement. Canada will host the federation’s Maritime Round Table in Montreal Sept. 20 – 23rd. This major international maritime event, organized in the form of a roundtable seminar, is held once every four years and aims to support and further the development of the next generation of maritime labour leadership.

This year, the four days will be dedicated to helping maritime union activists identify, develop and undertake campaigns in support of their own memberships — and to make meaningful contributions to global maritime solidarity.

We’re gathering under grim skies next week.

Memories of the financial collapse of 2008 are still fresh in workers’ minds, and the ongoing failure of Hanjin looms large over us. The financial collapse of the South Korean shipping giant serves to highlight the deep problems of a shipping industry crippled by over-capacity and too little cargo. Workers are always the most vulnerable party in such failures, and we meet in Montreal in common cause with the seafarers who crew Hanjin’s fleet. The solidarity of the ITF and its affiliated unions is the first, and sometimes only, line of defence for those workers and the families they leave behind.

Against this backdrop, more than 150 delegates will attend an inclusive and interactive seminar. Canada’s ITF inspectors and our two main campaigning unions — the Seafarers International Union of Canada and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada — will play host to the delegates, as well as dozens of maritime union leaders and ITF staff.

Our Canadian inspectors and unions are taking their responsibilities seriously.

All three Canadian ITF inspectors are attending as facilitators and each of us will bring our practical experience to forums and workshops. Our Canadian unions have played a massive role in organizing the gathering — especially SIU of Canada, which as the home union based in Montreal has shouldered the burden of organizing everything from support letters for delegate visas to the venue itself, and planning for the outside activities that generally surround our seminars. All of this is enormous work, and we give them a tip of the cap.

The ILWU Canada is pitching in with its own special initiative on Sept. 21 with an evening event that will share lessons learned in two years of steady work to revitalize activism in the union — and a blueprint for others to take home and customize. The session will include a presentation on the evolution of the ILWU’s young workers movement and an undoubtedly lively live recording session of The Docker Podcast.

As part of the presentation, the young workers have launched a social-media campaign and photo contest for delegates to the MRT. We liked the idea so much we’re opening it up to all of our readers. Delegates are being encourage to print off the poster found here, sign their name in big, readable letters — and then take a creative photo of themselves holding up the poster. The photo should be posted on social-media platforms using the hashtag #iampartofthemovement. The best delegate photo will receive a gift from the ILWU Canada.

We at the ITF Canada are spreading the solidarity joy by encouraging all our readers to do the same. Non-delegates will be eligible to win a special prize from us. All you have to do is add the hashtag #ITFCanada to your post as well.

You can learn more about the roundtable here. It’s going to be an awesome event, and we’ll be reporting back to you on it when it’s over.

 

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