The seminar, at the end of January, was the first meeting for rank and file seafarers, and was organised by the ITF in conjunction with local partners in the labour and transport sectors.
The SUK had collapsed and been suspended from the ITF, and was left with only 32 members. The ITF in Africa successfully used modern tools of communication and especially SMS technology to help rebuild the union. Today it has over 1, 000 active and paid-up members, who are vital to the ITF’s Flags of Convenience campaign, and the union is effectively collaborating with the Dock Workers Union of Kenya and other ITF affiliates.
SUK members challenged their leaders to be more transparent and consistent in involving members at the grass roots in union activities.
Joseph Katende, ITF African regional secretary, said: “I advised the participants that leaders were union members too, who are obliged to work in unison with the SUK’s active membership to strengthen the union. I reminded them to meet their constitutional obligations since they are the owners of the organisation and I gave each one a copy of the SUK constitution to study and empower themselves.”
After the discussions, the SUK leadership expressed its commitment to work as a team in order to revitalise seafarers’ confidence and further build unity in the union. There was a genuine willingness by the union’s leaders to serve with diligence, together with active and reliable members. Participants expressed their gratitude towards the educational support the ITF has been giving to Kenyan seafarers.
The seminar participants also benefited from first-hand information on legal matters in the maritime industry, which was presented by experts from the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) and the labour commissioner of the coastal county, Mombasa.