ETU and CEPU head to Singapore for IndustriALL Global Union conference

Nicholas McCallum

Global unions re-affirm their commitment to 'Disparity, discrimination, poverty'.

At a recent meeting in Singapore IndustriALL Global Union shipbuilding and shipbreaking unions adopted an action plan for the years ahead with an agreement to promote safety and stationarity in the industry.

The conference was held in Singapore over 1-2 November 2018, with a delegation of ETU and CEPU members taking part alongside other affiliates in the Australian Shipbuilding Federation of Unions (ASFU).

More than 100 people representing 27 unions from 21 countries were at the conference.

The conference was opened by Kenichi Kanda of the Japan Federation of Basic Industry Workers’ Union, who remarked the global union movement’s focus for the coming years must be: “Disparity, discrimination, poverty.”

“We, the international trade union movement, should make effort to eliminate those conditions from our society. We must promote our industrial policy which puts workers and people first to secure our lives and to make this industry sustainable,” he said.

Members of the ETU/CEPU delegation.

The event was hosted by Singaporean affiliates the Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Employees' Union (SMEEU), the Keppel FELS Employees Union (KFEU) and the Keppel Employees Union (KEU).

In a true showing of global solidarity, there were 103 participants from 27 unions in 21 countries at the conference.

The shipbreaking industry is expected to grow over the next 25 years, and the implementation of international rules and standards (such as the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships – which Australia is not yet party to) is a pressing need in the South Asian countries of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan where more 70% of world shipbreaking is located.

Singapore’s Keppel FELS shipyard.

The conference also focused on trade union networks need to increase union negotiating power at multinational corporations at the global level, a topic of great relevance for the CEPU and ETU members as the shipbuilding program ramps up in Australia.

One discussion, moderated by Matt Murphy (CEPU, Australia), Glenn Thompson (ASFU), Ian Waddel (Workers Uniting Europe, UK), Manuel Velado Cambero (FICA-UGT, Spain) and Warren Fairley (IBB, USA), concentrated on developing effective and constructive trade union networks in multinationals such as BAE, Naval Group, Fincantieri and Navantia.

Murphy, the ETU National Industry Coordinator, said it was important to forge these connections as the $75 billion Australian Navy shipbuilding project gets underway.

“We’ve got a multi-generation build starting in Australia right now and we’ll soon have workers going back and forth to Europe to learn the new skills and techniques required to build our navy’s ships and subs,” he said.

“For us to have smooth sailing, it’s important that the ETU, the CEPU and the ASFU work with our union comrades in the UK and France so we can provide security of employment to our members, certainty to the Naval Group and BAE specialists, and ensure that their skills are properly transferable.”

The ASFU also signed important cooperation agreements with both the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions in the UK, and CGT NAVAL union in France.

As part of the Strategic Partnering Agreement, the cooperatives will help workers as the move among the three nations to work and learn new skills throughout the Future Frigates and Submarines build.

The union delegates actively discussed the following:

  • Global trends in shipbuilding and shipbreaking industries and sector activities
  • Organizing and fighting against precarious work
  • Securing sustainable jobs for future shipbreaking industry
  • Promoting Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and sustainable industrial policy
  • Developing a trade union network and strengthening solidarity
  • Future activities and action plan for 2019-2022

The also delegates visited Singapore’s Keppel FELS shipyard on the afternoon of 2 November, warmly hosted by KFEU.

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