Port workers and seafarers all over the world work under the direction of the port or ship owner, but usually have little say in the actual conditions of employment. While the majority of port and ship owners run a fair and sustainable business with good treatment of employees, over the centuries there have been incidents where these workers have been treated less fairly.
What are they?
The voice of one worker is not usually enough to find the ear of the employer, but collectively, workers have found that it is easier to find someone willing to listen and take action. This is the fundamental reason for having labour or trade unions, where workers come together under a common goal to influence the direction of the employment.
What do they do?
Normally membership of the union is required and the activities that a union offers vary. For some members, it is the provision of benefits that is attractive, offering insurance against unemployment, ill health, old age and funeral expenses. In many developed countries, these functions have been taken on by the state and benefits can now take the form of professional training, legal advice, and representation for members.
Other benefits that membership of a trade or labour union can offer include, collective bargaining, where trade unions negotiate with employers over wages and working conditions; industrial action and solidarity, which can range from protest messages to organising strikes or resistance to lockouts in support of goals; and political activity, promoting favourable legislation. Unions present in the maritime industry will usually be in close contact with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).