The organising goals of Nautilus International are to recruit, retain, empower, provide training and engage in collective bargaining for and together with, our members.
Organising encompasses industrial work, both collectively and individually; the recruitment of new members and delivering a service that ensures the Union retains existing members. Organising also includes administering to the needs of the membership.
Nautilus carries out negotiations on behalf of members where it holds Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) directly with their employers, or at national level in sector-wide agreements, in the case of Switzerland and the Netherlands. Nautilus’s goals in these negotiations are guided by the Council via industrial objectives that are set each year. Chief amongst those goals is achieving real improvements in members’ wages, overall employment terms and conditions and protecting jobs. The Nautilus Organising team continues to focus on conducting its industrial work in a professional and timely manner with close coordination between teams in all branches. Members continue to be consulted and informed about the Union’s activities on their behalf. New areas of organisational influence and formal recognition have been pursued with some success. The Union’s links to maritime and nautical colleges continue to be maintained and developed as required.
Replicating the cluster arrangements established in the Rotterdam administration, the UK Organising teams were restructured into Centres of Excellence focused on delivering for members in the ferry industry, the offshore industry and cruises and deep-sea sector. A fourth Centre of Excellence was created for recruitment, membership and large yachts.
Membership, Stability & Growth
Nautilus experienced an overall decline in membership over the past four years of 1,072, including 770 full members. In response, the Organising teams have continued to focus on infill recruitment within traditional areas of membership and redoubled efforts in greenfield recruitment areas, such as the large yacht and windfarm sectors. Since 2015, over 7,600 new members have been recruited across all branches of the Union, including nearly 1,500 cadets. Recruitment initiatives, such as Recruit a Colleague and Yacht Friends of Nautilus have so far yielded nearly 400 new members since 2015.
Many of those who have left the Union will have done so as a direct consequence of job losses. This has been felt most acutely in the offshore oil and gas sector. It has been estimated that the sector has lost some 50,000 jobs because of the oil price collapse. The Organising team has fought, with some success, to minimise redundancies and ensured the Union is positioned to improve terms and conditions when a sustained upturn in the oil and gas market returns.
It has been estimated that the sector has lost some 50,000 jobs because of the oil price collapse
Nautilus has maintained service levels to members whilst adjusting to new organising activity. Successes include the signing of new agreements in the windfarm sector, and introducing new services in the yacht sector, which together have ensured that membership in those sectors has risen by around 40%. In the Netherlands, together with the national trade union federation (FNV), Nautilus is leading the way in organising and regulating labour in the wind offshore energy transition.
The Swiss maritime fleet has reduced from 50 to just 30 vessels, hitting membership levels. In response, Nautilus has focused on steadying the decline through more ship visits and further developing strong relationships with companies and crew and seeking to recruit and secure agreements in the expanding river cruise sector.
The Organising team has also been looking at the opportunities for recruiting in the fisheries industry following the adoption of the International Labour Organization Convention on Work in Fishing and its ratification by the UK. This Convention has the potential to change the relationship between fishers and their ‘employer’ because they will be required to have an employment agreement.
Signing New Agreements
There has been ongoing decline in the number of Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) held by the Union, particularly in the UK. This is primarily due to consolidation; company transfers and winding-ups.
Nautilus has responded by targeting new areas for partnership and recognition agreements such as in the large yacht and windfarm sectors. In the UK, a two-step approach has seen the achievement of partnership arrangements with companies internationally, which aim to nurture trust and confidence in the relationship between the Union and employers.
In the offshore sector, employers are now approaching Nautilus to discuss recognition, including Acergy, Smit, Shell and the Bibby Line Group.
Substantial progress has also been made in the large yacht sector, with several new strategic partnerships established to increase the Union’s sphere of influence and marketing opportunities. The scope and diversity of these organisations have created new opportunities for Nautilus to build strategic partnerships in the sector, covering such services as financial advice, yacht management, crewing agents and payroll providers.
Localised yacht representation and resource has been maintained in Antibes and this has helped the Union deliver on both industrial and legal issues, in several high-profile cases. In addition, the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency Authorised Service Record Book service has contributed to increases in membership.
Nautilus has spent time building a relationship with the National Workboat Association. Latterly, the Union also signed several windfarm collective bargaining and partnership agreements. In the Netherlands, Nautilus and FNV have engaged in a major greenfield project to organise and regulate labour on issues such as responsible procurement and mobility.
Offshore Organising Activity
Members in the offshore sector have been struggling for several years, however, the Union is now seeing members start to regain the benefits and terms and conditions they had lost. The Union’s national and international offshore work is now coordinated across the three branches. This has included partnering with affiliates of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) as well as other trade unions in the UK, Netherlands and Switzerland.
Nautilus is an active participant of the ITF Offshore Task Force and has supported and received support from other members of the group. The dispute with Borr Drilling, a subsidiary of Paragon based in the Netherlands, demonstrated the strength of international cooperation between Nautilus’s branches. Through the offshore coordinating work, UK members and other trade unions joined the action against Borr Drilling’s planned redundancies. This coordination led to the company agreeing to reinstate nearly 20 members of staff.
Nautilus has also focused on arranging meetings with almost all employers in the offshore sector with a view to growing partnerships, gaining recognition and further protecting members’ jobs.
The Union successfully conducted protests when Vroon Offshore refused to negotiate a CBA, which lead to a renewed relationship. At Heerema Offshore, Nautilus protected jobs and negotiated a redundancy package when a reorganisation was unavoidable.
Protecting Members' Jobs
One of Nautilus’s key priorities has been protecting members’ jobs. This has been pursued under the banner of the campaigning objectives set by the General Meeting in 2015, ‘Jobs, Skills, the Future’. The Union has used a number of strategies, including gaining publicity and the threat of industrial action to achieve success.
In the Netherlands, jobs were saved at Stena Line through the high-profile threat of industrial action. In the UK, dispute resolution remains a key strategy while balloting goes through legal procedures. The Union has used the legally-required 14 days between the ballot and the industrial action processes
to reach a resolution. In every recent case in the ferry sector, where this process has been used, it has been successful.
At P&O Ferries, Nautilus brokered an improved redundancy package, which protected the jobs of members. Meanwhile, at ODV Maritiem and its successor, the Union effectively supported industrial action and political lobbying for jobs and occupational health and safety for bridge operators.
In a dispute with Orkney Ferries, which involved the public and private sectors and a number of different trade unions, Nautilus achieved a settlement acceptable to members.
The Union also provided support to members after the bankruptcies of Flinter - Abis and CFL - and many seafarers were successfully reabsorbed by the sector following a negotiated job security clause covering the national CBA for the Dutch Merchant Navy.
Nautilus has continued to explore new areas for organising activity within its sphere of influence – maritime and shipping, including inland waterways transport. The Union looks for new partnerships with employers to ensure trade union representation, support for members and for proper and effective regulation of the industry.
This approach has been particularly successful in the windfarm sector. Since 2018, the Union has promoted a charter to ensure high standards in working conditions, wages, employment, job security, contracts, food safety and adequate training, in line with regulations introduced in the Maritime Labour Convention.
Alongside the National Windfarm Association’s nearly 100 employer members, Nautilus has worked to develop trust and support between members and employers. This was a vital step in signing the sector’s first agreement with Bibby Offshore as the vessel operator, and Netherlands-based Atlas as the employer. Nautilus now has five agreements in the sector.
In the Netherlands, Nautilus and FNV have started important work to organise and regulate the sector, as well as to influence political processes related to a fair energy transition under the slogans, ‘No Energy without a CBA’ and ‘Energy is free, labour is not’.
Nautilus first entered the yacht sector 12 years ago and now has an office and an honorary delegate in the South of France, responsible for all current issues. In 2018, the Union created a ‘Friends of Nautilus’ category of membership, allowing seafarers to access Nautilus communications and a Service Record Book at a reduced subscription fee. This has generated membership growth.
Nautilus has focused on the river cruise sector for long- term growth as it contains approximately 1,500 qualified boatmen working across Europe, operating under the Swiss flag. Organising the sector is the primary ongoing strategy to achieving collective bargaining agreements with employers there. Liberal labour laws in Switzerland, which greatly benefit employers, present challenges to the organising team, but work continues undiminished.