Brazilian oil workers’ and seafarers’ unions have launched a new ‘solidarity pact’ with U.S. mariners who are fighting for the right to join a union.

Signed in Rio de Janeiro, the pact pledges international cooperation to promote fairness, justice and a voice at work for mariners working on U.S.-flag vessels of Trico Marine Services, Inc. In addition, maritime unions throughout Latin America have agreed to support the campaign.

This is a new phase in worldwide action by mariners and oil workers. The unions involved are affiliates of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM). Together, they are supporting a campaign to secure trade union rights for American workers employed by Trico, which supplies shipping and other services to offshore oil producers.

The pact says: ‘The Brazilian and U.S. unions call peacefully and lawfully on the customers of Trico not to engage in any further contracts with Trico from this day forward until Trico ceases its anti-union activities and, upon demonstration of majority support, recognizes the [Offshore Mariners Union] as the union representing mariners working on the company’s U.S. Gulf of Mexico fleet and negotiates in good faith a collective bargaining agreement providing these workers all the protections of union representation.’

It was backed by Maritime unions from all over Latin America who were taking part in an ITF conference in Rio. They resolved to ‘support OMU and the Bilateral Solidarity Pact by taking steps to persuade Trico Marine to end its campaign of intimidation, including any and all steps sanctioned by applicable law, which would have the effect of limiting Trico’s ability to expand its operations anywhere in Latin America, until such time as Trico Marine recognizes the rights of its employees to organize and bargain collectively through the representatives of their choice.’

The OMU is a coalition of American mariners’ unions. Trico Marine operates a fleet of nearly 100 vessels worldwide in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea and off Brazil. Trico mariners in the North Sea and Brazil enjoy the protection of a union contract. U.S. workers do not.

‘For over a year, Trico mariners have sought a union,’ said David Heindl, secretary-treasurer of the Seafarers International Union of North America.

‘Trico has responded by firing union supporters, blocking union representatives from visiting ships … and finding all manner of ways to prevent their mariners from being able to communicate with our unions,’ Heindl said. ‘Further, Trico has run a strong campaign of harassment, intimidation, interrogation and pressure to scare mariners away from their aim of having a union.’