Belfast, Northern Ireland is the latest location for Unite’s development of an industrial hub, encouraging links between workers at the harbour regardless of the job they do.
Belfast now joins Humberside, Grangemouth, Liverpool, Southampton and Teeside as a UK port where an International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)/IndustriALL sponsored hub is either up and running or in development.
“It sounds silly but this is a totally new way of thinking for us.” Said Belfast harbour shop steward Tom Davey. “We’re used to lorry drivers dealing with lorry drivers, dockers dealing with dockers, office staff dealing with office staff. We’ve always kept to our own industries and it’s only now that we’re realising how much power that could potentially cost us when it comes to our union negotiations and during industrial disputes.
Belfast harbor is a major maritime hub, handling about 25% of the maritime trade for the whole of Ireland. Workers at the harbor include road, rail, seafarers, dockers and office and administrative staff.
Paula Brennan works for the ITF on the Belfast project and is a member of Unite. She said: “What we’re seeing here is activists building links and sharing experiences that are going to put them in a good position to support one another when that’s needed. This organising model is about workers driving progress and meeting the challenges of employment by multinationals head on – together. And that includes support from retired members and the local community as well.”
The development of the first hub in Ireland –North or South – is of particular significance given the current government negotiations around Brexit. Unite is calling for a coordinated approach to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, that will offer opportunities to control trade, defend the interests of workers and put in place robust industrial strategy. These are all principles existing within the hubs programme too, which is essentially designed to build workers’ industrial power and influence through greater coordination and organising up and down supply chains.
Outside the UK and Ireland other international locations are also under development including in Algeria, Norway and Denmark.
Watch this space for more on what the Belfast hub can deliver for workers and follow the international programme on social media via #OurHubs