Nautilus news

Meet the team: Garry Elliott, Nautilus senior national organiser

1 February 2018

As part of a series profiling the Union's senior management team, Nautilus senior national organiser GARRY ELLIOTT explains why trade union representation is so important for maritime professionals at a time of considerable change...

Taken at face value, my principal job title as 'head of the organising department' really reflects why I do what I do at Nautilus International. With responsibility for activities related to union membership, recruitment, retention, servicing members and training, my role is predominantly about people – about you, your teams, your colleagues.

My role as head of organising means I am responsible for the Union's organising activities in the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands, in accordance with the strategic plan which covers members in all our branches.

It was my seafaring background, from a childhood living by the sea, home and abroad with my father serving in the Royal Navy, to my own brief period of service, which attracted me to work for a union specialising in the maritime industry.

I have worked in trade unions for 35 years, gaining my first 17 years' experience with the Communications Workers Union, before returning to my seafaring roots – for a union that represents maritime professionals of all ranks, qualifications and backgrounds.

Since joining Nautilus in 1999, I've seen first-hand how technological, economic and political changes have affected the landscape of seafaring. With both exciting and challenging times ahead for the sector, particularly as the UK looks to exit the EU, and predictions of national and international seafarer shortages by 2021, we need to do our bit to boost recruitment, improve employment conditions, and attract the workers of the future.

That's why representation by a dedicated trade union can assist our members and the profession as a whole. We ensure that maritime professionals can do what they do best, secure in the knowledge that Nautilus is fighting your corner on vital issues of welfare, skills and economic security.  

To do this, we must keep pace with a changing industry. This includes exploring the opportunities presented by new greenfield sites and new strategic sectors. We are determined that maritime professionals get good, decent jobs and working conditions in these new sectors, which present both exciting career prospects for the next generation and the chance to replace jobs lost in more traditional areas that have declined over time.

Nautilus is fighting your corner on vital issues of welfare, skills and economic security

This includes the offshore sector which, as it contracts and large employers start to amalgamate, is now expanding into windfarm operations. The large yacht sector has also seen a rapid growth in recent years and again provides a new potential growth sector for our members entering the industry.

We will continue our work campaigning for jobs in the ferry sector, which has become increasingly exposed to tough competition from low-cost operators using flags of convenience and cheaper foreign crews.

This began in 2014 as the 'fair ferries campaign', under which Nautilus has called for local labour to be used wherever possible, but the relevance of this campaign is greater than ever in the UK as it looks to leave the EU. Significant success has been seen after two years of negotiations with a multinational employer operating on the Irish Sea, to make sure that local jobs are retained, which we have managed to achieve with the support of members and activists.

A key aspect of what my department does is the recruitment of new members and retention of existing members. This is an everyday occurrence; wherever we are, whatever we're doing, we'd hope that we can increase our membership. We have recently signed an agreement with Shell where we are the lead union representing members in different ranks and nationalities. We are looking to replicate this with a number of other global employers.

Dedicated initiatives such as 'recruit a colleague', which began in November 2017, support this focus on recruitment. We'd heartily encourage existing members to get involved, by encouraging others in their workplace to sign up. Once a new member joins and retains their membership for over three months, the member who made the referral receives a £25 voucher. More details on 'recruit a colleague' can be found on the Nautilus website.

I have also overseen the development of our commitment to the yacht sector. Nautilus has been working hard over the last few years to improve the working conditions for large yacht officers and crew, in line with the sector becoming more professional. This is an expanding industry which offers attractive employment opportunities – but sadly there is evidence to show problems of bullying, harassment and insecurity, with many seafarers routinely denied the rights that shore-based staff would be entitled to.

It will be a challenging time ahead for the maritime industry as a whole – but, with a strong strategy, growing membership base, and sustained focus on emerging new sectors, we will keep on course and continue to represent our members, their jobs and futures to the best of our ability.