Bullying and harassment

Watch the ETF video: Say no to bullying, say no to harassment (second edition)
Research has shown that workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination remain an issue in the maritime industry. Nautilus has been campaigning to eradicate the problem for more than ten years, and is working to bring about an industry-wide culture change.

What this campaign is about

In 2000 Nautilus International (then known in the UK as NUMAST) conducted a survey of women members to understand the issues around equal opportunities in the shipping industry. The report highlighted alarming levels of harassment, a lack of faith in reporting systems or the implementation of policies where they existed, and that no training was taking place on these issues onshore or at sea.

The Union worked first with the UK Chamber of Shipping and later with the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) to develop the Guidelines to Shipping Companies on Eliminating Workplace Harassment and Bullying. These were produced in 15 languages, with an accompanying training video.

It was hoped that this would spark a transformation in the industry, but in 2010, South African female cadet Akhona Geveza died in suspicious circumstances onboard the UK-registered containership Safmarine Kariba.

The incident occurred after Ms Geveza made an allegation of rape against a senior officer, and in the aftermath, a number of allegations of institutional bullying and harassment were made by other cadets onboard.

Later that year, the Union, which by now had joined with the Dutch union Nautilus NL to form Nautilus International, conducted a new survey of all members to see if the situation had improved since the first guidelines were introduced. The 2010 survey found that while many did report positive experiences, nearly half had personally experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination in their workplace.

What we want to achieve

The Union believes that a zero tolerance attitude to workplace bullying and harassment should exist in jobs shoreside and at sea. We are campaigning to ensure that our members can undertake the roles they are trained for without fear and we consider that bullying and aggressive workplaces are a hindrance to productivity and a danger to the mental and physical health of employees - which at sea can have a negative effect on safety.

What we’ve already achieved

Nautilus has conducted a number of surveys and produced reports monitoring the levels of bullying and harassment in the workplace. We have also represented individual members bringing cases of bullying and harassment against their employers.

In 2013, Nautilus launched the Protect and Respect guide to help members identify and tackle bullying and harassment in their workplaces. In 2014, the Union, along with ECSA and ETF, launched an updated video and training guide to identify and challenge bullying in the industry. The ETF video made by Videotel runs through different scenarios of bullying onboard a ship and the accompanying workbook  on the ETF website encourages viewers to discuss the issues raised and apply the lessons to their own workplaces. The Guidelines to Shipping Companies on Eliminating Workplace Harassment & Bullying were also updated and reissued.

What’s next

A number of resources now exist to tackle bullying in the maritime industry, and these need to be shared as widely as possible in order to bring about a culture change across the world fleet.

Members are encouraged to share the video, workbook and other literature as widely as possible via social media and within their workplaces. The Union is also working with a number of employers to provide training for all staff on identifying and tackling bullying and harassment in the maritime workplace.

We know from our own research that some members experience bullying and harassment and never say anything about their experience because they think no-one will believe them, that they won’t get any support – or even that they might suffer reprisals.

This is damaging for the shipping industry, wasteful of scarce training resources and acts as a disincentive for young people to choose a career in shipping.

If you are being bullied or experiencing harassment, please don’t let things get to crisis point. Nautilus is here to support you in recognising and tackling the problem – starting with an informal chat about your options. See our Need help? page for numbers to call and email addresses to use.