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At the Africa/Arab world electoral group meeting, history was made when the African delegates voted by popular acclamation for 33 years old, Dorothy Nandera, to represent the continent at the "power house" of the ITF, the Executive Board. Her election came as a result of some misunderstanding amongs the Kenyan delegates, who was slated for that position. Until her elevation to that covetous position, she was secretary of the transport young workers of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union (ATGWU) of Uganda. She is the youngest ever to occupy that position since the inception of the ITF in 1896. When asked by this reporter, what is going to be her first challenge? She confidently said "I will advocate for more women representation at the board and encourage unions in the continent to include youths in their executives"
Parker Kamara (reporting from Sofia AAT the 43rd ITF congress)
Mick Carney TSSA President reporting from the Cultural Palace Sofia
Overall its been a great week. Blissful weather (if a little too hot for a pasty faced Englishman) but that aside most enjoyable. Enjoyable yet productive. It reaffirmed my own belief in Internationalism. We need to be able to fight the movement of global capital and the only way to be able to do this is to cooperate with our Sisters and Brothers across the globe.
For me my own personal highlights was the speaker who spoke on the disgraceful conditions faced by migrant labour in Qatari Airways and the debate on Palestine, the incredible passion shown by the numerous speakers and the utter condemnation of the Zionist genocide of the Palestinian people.
From my own union, the TSSA Andi Fox made an excellent speech during the Woman Transport Workers Conference highlighting how privatisation makes it difficult for women to obtain flexible working as companies cut to the bone.
The only part of the ITF Conference that left a bitter taste in the mouth came on the final night closing ceremony at the Military Park Sofia. We were treated to the Military band and traditional Bulgarian dancers both of who were excellent. We then had a rock band that played for us. They started of very well, playing an excellent tribute to Bob Crow. Unfortunately they then went on to play a tribute to The Great Train Robbers Ronnie Biggs and Buster Edwards. Included in the song was the line 'I coshed him on the head'. Driver Jack Mills never recovered from his injurys received in this barbarous attack. Jack was an ASLEF member and at the time of this song being played I was drinking with my ASLEF comrades. They were visibally shaken that, at a trade union event, this was felt appropriate and I wholeheartedly agree.
All in all an excellent conference but, as I say, spoilt on the final night for me.
Mick Carney signing off from Sofia.
During our presence at the Sofia Congres 2014 we spoke with our colleagues of the dockers section JICT Unions in particular the PT. Jakarta International Container Terminal.
They told us that they are now in a dispute with their employer Hutchinson and their National authorities. The dispute is about extension of consession, breaking the law, job security and welfare of workers.
The National Authorities now puts an immense of pressure on the dockworkers and they now need full support of the unions and collegue dockworkers from all over the world.
The delegation from FNV Havens and the colleagues from Hutchinson Rotterdam now speak out their solidarity and their support to the colleagues of the PT. Jakarta International Container Terminal.
Delegation FNV Havens in Sofia
It was my first time of participating in an ITF Congress and I knew I had to learn a lot from the Pre-Congress meeting in Abuja, Nigeria,in order to catch up with how the ITF system works.
The world is changing fast ,sometimes not on the right track and one has to master many competencies and skills to avoid exclusion. The Abuja meeting turned out to be an IT training session for all those who would participate in the 43rd Congress of the ITF.
We were told that the Sofia congress was going to be the first paperless and digital congress of ITF and we had to acquire some skills before we could effectively participate in the Congress. That worsened my case but I took consolation in the fact that since it was the first digital congress of ITF , I was not too disadvantaged because we all had to learn to participate in the first digital congress of ITF.
The instructors certainly had a tough time taking us through the skill of using the tablet to acess the congress documents but in the end we were able to acquire the skills that helped us to participate effectively in the digital congress of ITF. Anna Karume ,Gemma Walker and Allan who facilitated the meeting need commendation.
Another innovation of the Sofia Congress was the issue of Participant Reporters who were to create stories to be posted on the ITF website as a way of getting the almost five million members of ITF spread across the globe to follow the proceedings of the Sofia congress. I volunteered to be a Participant Reporter in Sofia .
The first challenge was how to put the skills learnt in the Abuja meeting into practice . My first story was on the beauty and cultural diversity that marked the opening ceremony of the Sofia Congress. I had to rely on the handout given to us in Abuja and that was very helpful. There were many Fringe events and I had to balance my prime role as a lead delegate for the Ghanaian delegation with my added responsibility of gathering stories for my audience who were not in Sofia.
News should not be stale and they are relevant only when they are reported as the events occur. To achieve this objective, I ensured that I worked on the stories as the events occured . There were many news-worthy events occuring each day in the Conferences of the Sections of ITF and the Fringe events . Catching up with these events which sometimes occured simultaneoulsy and ensuring timely reporting made me busy with little time for socialisation. It became common for me to go to bed at dawn of the next day . There were times that I lost my work during the editing stage through carelessness and probably fatigue. In one instance , I nearly wept when I lost my work almost at the end of editing. I watched the time and it was 2.30 am. I got angry and shut off the computer with the decision that I would forget about that story . Unfortunately, that story was about my passion - the state of the Rail transport in Ghana. I took a nap for about one hour and went back to the story and I am happy I did not give up on that story.
My association with another Participant Reporter Comrade Parker Kamara from Sierra Leone was very helpful. We shared our frustrations and encouraged ourselves. The feedback on the stories posted on the website encouraged me a lot. My members back at home who read the stories on the website sent me words of encouragement and commendation which energised me. The emails of Gemma Walker of the Communications Department of ITF did a lot to make me feel appreciated.
Sofia gave me a good opportunity to be relevant in the service of building a strong ITF which would be accessible to all its members and I am very grateful to ITF for such a great opportunity. I have been supported in many ways in Sofia by Brother Joseph Katende , Anna Karume, Bayla Sow , Assita Ouedrago , Parker Kamara and my good friend Marcel Zante. I appreciate their support.
The staff and members of the Maritime and Dockworkers' Union of Ghana showed great interest in my stories which they read on the ITF website. Their messages and expression of appreciation for the work I was doing in Sofia motivated me to go on despite the challenges.
I had a wonderful Ghanaian team in Sofia in the persons of Sister Melody Amoah , Brother Frank Ben Danful Essilfie and Brother Samuel Addison all of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority who constituted a strong backbone for me in Sofia.
It is time to mention that my family back at home showed great interest in my work as a Participant Reporter . I am grateful to my wife Hannah Owusu-Koranteng , daughter Akua Owusu-Koranteng and my son Kojo Owusu-Koranteng for their feed back and encouragement.
It was such a joy to report from the National Palace of Culture , Sofia , Bulgaria.
Daniel Owusu-Koranteng reporting from the National Palace of Culture , Sofia , Bulgaria.
Participating in her first Congress, Jan Simpson, National Union Representative, External Organisation with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, is convinced that the variety and richness of the debates in meetings, equip union reps with the tools they need to be effective.
Jan is delighted that she has been able to network, discuss challenges and share strategies with comrades she would not have otherwise met. Similarly, she has been very impressed with the knowledge of the diverse panels in the Fringe events. Her favourite - Making Violence Against Women a Union Issue.
One observation which we are sure Jan shares with all of us, is that workers from Canada to Cambodia to the Caribbean are facing similar challenges, what she has also observed is that there is no need to reinvent the wheel, you can get whatever guidance you need right here at this 43rd ITF Congress, the solidarity is amazing.
That's right Jan, this is the place for global responses to global challenges, Solidarity!