Inside the Issues

Cruise ships Trade union input for Indonesian trainees


For the past five years seafarers working on cruise ships covered by collective agreements negotiated by the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union (NSU) have been able to attend union training courses focusing on their agreement and on the international shipping industry.

Run in close cooperation with the Kesatuan Pelaut Indonesia (KPI) seafarers’ union and the ITF, the trade union awareness seminars in Bali, Indonesia, aim to provide the seafarers with basic union knowledge.

But, just as importantly, the unions receive vital feedback from the seafarers, including input for the negotiations with employers and ideas about how to strengthen the relationship between the seafarers and the unions.

In 2010 the unions held three separate seminars. A half-day women’s seminar was followed by the basic seminar for both men and women and finally there was an advanced seminar for participants who had already completed the basic course.

The seminars teach the seafarers about the ITF, the KPI and the NSU, as well as about the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Participants also receive a basic understanding of their collective bargaining agreement. Other topics covered include cultural diversity, harassment and bullying, discrimination and the dispute resolution process.

The seafarers take part in role play exercises illustrating various situations that may occur on board. They are also given the opportunity to ask questions and come up with comments.

At the end of the seminars, students and their spouses are invited to attend an HIV/AIDS presentation by a local organisation, Aids Commission (KPA). They hear about HIV/AIDS statistics in Bali, how the virus is contracted, how it behaves and how to prevent it from spreading.

A total of 65 seafarers attended the Bali seminars in 2010. Since the start of the programme in 2006, 234 crew members have participated – some of them twice. To encourage participation, the seafarers are invited to bring their family, since they already spend so much time away from them while on the ships.

The unions also arrange an excursion during the seminar, which gives everyone a chance to socialise and network with each other and with the officials from the KPI and the NSU.

The NSU strongly believes in the importance of these seminars and we have received a lot of positive feedback from the seafarers. In addition, the seafarers have given the unions valuable information on general problems on the ships that we take with us into the negotiations.

The seminars also give the unions an opportunity to get to know the seafarers. We later meet many of the participants when we do our ship visits and, because they know us from the seminars, the seafarers find it easier to help us gather valuable information about the work onboard.

So successful has been the programme that the NSU plans to expand it in the near future to cover areas such as South America, the Caribbean and the Philippines. Already in June last year, we organised the first seminar in Goa, India, in close cooperation with the National Union of Seafarers of India and the ITF. As we say: “Knowledge to the few is power, while knowledge to the many is freedom.”