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Meet the team: Mark Dickinson, Nautilus general secretary

1 May 2017

General secretary MARK DICKINSON was returned unopposed in 2017 to serve another four years in charge of the Union. In this message to members, he reflects on the work ahead…

It is an honour and a privilege to be confirmed as Nautilus International's general secretary for a third successive four-year term of office. And it is a responsibility that I treat with the greatest respect.

Few members will need to be told about the challenges that we face. The international shipping industry continues to struggle in its recovery from the global economic downturn, and the oil price crash has had a devastating effect upon jobs and conditions in one of the biggest sectors in which our members work.

In an industry where cost-cutting dominates so strongly, many employers remain reluctant to invest in the skills and experience that are necessary to deliver safe and efficient operations and to grow our maritime skills base. And that is partly because there is a similar battle for us to convince governments of the need to implement the policies that are necessary to keep our ships and our seafarers internationally competitive.

At the same time, Nautilus also faces its own demographic challenge  – with the increasingly high average age of our membership meaning that many will be retiring over the next decade.

These developments pose challenges to our membership base and our resources. But Nautilus is up to the challenge. We have a remarkable 160-year history and have evolved over the years to ensure that we have delivered the very best services and support to our members.

With challenges come opportunities and, with the strong vision and oversight of Council members, Nautilus continues to be a dynamic organisation with an underpinning strategic plan that enables us to be proactive rather than reactive.

We have always maintained the very highest standards of governance and we continue to plan ahead and make any necessary changes to ensure that we fulfil our objective of being an independent financially viable international trade union and professional organisation.

We have clearly defined strategic objectives for Nautilus, and at the heart of these is the aim to increase membership participation and engagement, building on the advances we have made in recent years in expanding and enhancing the role of our lay representatives. The Union has strong democratic traditions, and I want to see us embrace the latest technology to ensure that members have every opportunity to get involved with our work and to take maximum advantage of the support and services that we provide.

We are already working hard not only to expand membership benefits, but also to provide innovative services that meet the needs of today's maritime professionals, such as the Nautilus 24/7 service which ensures access to assistance wherever you are and whenever you need it.

New technology is opening up new ways of working which we will seek to embrace and exploit. We are constantly upgrading communications and we seek to lead the way in using innovative ways in which to interact with members.

We have clearly defined strategic objectives for Nautilus, and at the heart of these is the aim to increase membership participation and engagement

Nautilus has done much in recent years to develop an effective organising structure to strengthen our ability to resist job losses and cuts in pay and conditions. We are making further changes to ensure that our organisers are ready and prepared to deliver strong and effective leadership, and also to reflect the changing needs of our members.

And over the past year we have embarked upon a strategic campaigns programme to promote the need for investment in maritime employment and training. The Jobs, Skills and the Future initiative has attracted support from the wider industry and within government, and we have much more planned to promote the positives of the shipping industry  – especially the opportunities it can offer to young people  – and to promote decent work and protection from criminalisation, as well as exposing the poor employment practices that undermine fair competition.

There's a wider public debate over the future of trade unionism, but throughout our long and proud history, we have always been much more than a traditional trade union. Our welfare work, our involvement in the provision of decent pensions, and our national and international involvement in setting high standards for health and safety, training and working conditions, are all evidence of an organisation that consistently strives to enhance the environment in which our members are employed.

We've also pioneered the principle of working across boundaries to protect members in one of the world's most globalised industries. We've fought hard to prevent 'divide and rule' practices by shipping companies and to protect the professional status of our members and head off the threat of de-skilling, which has affected so many other industries.

To achieve this, we continue to develop our global links with like-minded organisations. The Nautilus Federation is expanding its membership and is delivering tangible benefits, such as the JASON scheme  – the world's first global joint assistance and support network to secure fair treatment for seafarers facing criminalisation.

So, whilst I have concentrated on the many challenges that face us, I believe it is important to emphasise the opportunities ahead. There are signs of recovery in some key shipping markets and the global shortage of skilled seafarers has not gone away.

Nautilus has worked hard to ensure that we have effective government policies for shipping and seafarer employment and training, and in the UK the government has responded with genuine interest in exploring how we can exploit Brexit for renewed investment in maritime skills.

On a personal level, I plan to continue visiting as many ships and workplaces as possible to keep in touch with members, and I hope members will use the many democratic processes of the Union  – General Meetings, branch meetings, the Council, forums and more  – to engage with us.

I am proud of my record and grateful for the continued faith in me and the Nautilus team I lead on the part of the Council and the wider membership. The Council of Nautilus is aware of these challenges and opportunities and is confident in our ability to adapt as necessary, whilst still delivering on our members' aspirations within the changing nature of their work.

As we progress through our 160th year I ask for renewed unity as we face the many challenges and opportunities. Together, we can succeed.


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