Interview with Torben Seebold on the ETF 2013 Congress

31 May 2013

Torben Seebold (ver.di, Germany), responsible for Maritime Transport, was interviewed by Philippe Alfonso, ETF Political Secretary, about his impressions on the ETF 2013 Congress

What will you remember of this 3-day Congress?
We had a very interesting and productive ETF Congress in Berlin and one thing that will stand out in my memory is the passion and commitment that characterized those who spoke on behalf of the transport workers to defend social justice and protest against job insecurity. As a representative of the hosting union ver.di and the German Seafarers’ Section, I am proud to be part of the ETF, a strong global union federation who knows how to make itself heard in Brussels!

What is the most important part of the main motion?
Rather than singling out one particular aspect, I would like to stress that the main motion rightly highlights the common challenges faced by all European transport workers, irrespective of the transport mode they work in. What is decisive in my view is that this motion manages to articulate a common response and a shared vision on how to fight back and avoid that workers will have to pay the heavy price for the global economic and financial crisis for which they were not responsible.
We are all duty-bound, as ETF affiliated members, to fight for a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable transport system in the Europe to which we all aspire! International solidarity makes us stronger to achieve the above-mentioned goals in the best interests of those we represent all over Europe.

What’s the challenge for your sector?
What we really need is an immediate boost and a decisive impetus at the highest political level to promote more and better jobs at sea for our fellow European seafarers. Yet what is happening is exactly the opposite: the EU neo-liberal agenda entirely driven by the champions of the “laissez-faire” policy is opposing any attempts to re-regulate the maritime transport sector. This is the reason why the ver.di seafarers’ section will strongly support  one of the overarching goal of the ETF MTS, i.e. the re-flagging of EU-controlled tonnage – particularly FOC and second registers – back to EU national flags (first registers) to avoid the disastrous consequences of a totally deregulated sector where unfair competition and social dumping rule.
I will conclude by saying that all the trade union organizations representing seafarers across Europe should have the compelling obligation to inspire young European seafarers to actively engage in the work of our respective maritime sections in order to convey the aspirations of the seagoing workforce of today and tomorrow; the ultimate aim being to strengthen further our voice vis-à-vis the national and European policy makers!