(eng) World's Dockers Unite on Internet, Mar 15

Profit Margin (pmargin@xchange.apana.org.au)
Mon, 18 Mar 1996 18:41:35 +0100

This posting has been forwarded to you as a service of
Accion Zapatista de Austin.

NOTE BENE: This is an interesting message about the use of the Internet
by dock workers and their proposal to link up with each other all over
the world via computer communications. As the comments make clear,
progress is being made in various ways. Such international networking is
clearly necessary to combat the multinational networking of corporate
capital and their state institutions. The problem which will have to be
dealt with in cyberspace, as it has been raised elsewhere, is how to
interlink such labor nets with other forms of struggle and avoid
corporatism and business unionism, even on a world scale.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 1996 18:44:41 -0500
From: Sam Lanfranco <LANFRAN@YORKU.CA>
To: Multiple recipients of list LABOR-L <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Subject: Forwarded Posting from ITF.ORG.UK

Date: Fri, 15 Mar 1996 13:01:40 GMT
Originator: union-d@wolfnet.com
From: Flint_Richard@itf.org.uk
To: Multiple recipients of list <union-d@wolfnet.com>
Subject: Internet connections
X-Comment: Union-D Distribution List

>Whereas the need to link up dock and maritime workers world-wide is
>critical to exchange information and link our common struggles and,
>Whereas the establishment of Labournet and the Dockers' World-wide Web
>Pages have been important in breaking the media blockade of information
>about the Liverpool dockers' struggle and,
>Whereas, dock and maritime workers world-wide must develop open and
>broad communication links among all their fellow workers internationally,
>Therefore, be it RESOLVED:
>"That this conference endorses the use of Labournet/Labornet and calls
>on all delegates and their affiliates and all maritime workers in the
>ITF to link up on the Internet and provide information on their issues
>and struggles on this international communication network and on
> Passed unanimously by the International Dockworkers Conference
Dear Friends,

In response to the motion adopted by the Liverpool dockers conference, I would
like to comment on a few points since the motion refers to affiliates of the

I think we can say a few things. The ITF has been involved in computer
communications and electronic mail for nearly 10 years now and we remember the
early days when no one was connected. We have always been involved with the
Poptel project who are a co-operative, non-profit grouping working to encourage
trade unionists to develop the use of e-mail. We now have our own Internet
connection directly to the UK backbone, our own Web server and FTP server.

Our different affiliates are coming on to the Internet in droves now, but it is
important to point out that there are a number of different service providers
and systems being used by people. Organisations such as Poptel and Labornet are
being used by many people and unions and so is the commercial service

There are also a number of ITF unions and individual transport workers who have
done what I consider to be a very good thing - that is to say they have used
their trade union muscle to demand unconditional access to the employers'
Internet systems and even in one case to have used the local railway company's
web server for themselves.

Particularly, outside the Anglo-Saxon world many unions operate through the use
of state or employers' equipment and many union officials are in fact seconded
from their regular jobs to do union work. There is a philosophical issue here
about whether or not such arrangements limit or benefit trade unions, but that
aside it is an important reality that we should recognise.

Furthermore on ships many seafarers use the existing communications equipment
for trade union purposes and this is a right we believe fighting for.
Developments underway presently in the International Maritime Satellite
Organisation (INMARSAT) point to a future where every Inmarsat equipped ship in
the world will have Internet and World-Wide Web access.

So the reality is that we see a wide variety of different systems and service
providers for Internet access. Some providers are more interested in providing
activists' connections, whilst others tend to focus on organisations. In my
opinion, we need to embrace both. We consider that the most important issue is
not which service anyone signs up with, but the absolute requirement that
everyone should be able to communicate freely with everyone else. One of the
great thing about the Internet is that it is a de facto open system that allows
a wide variety of different computers with different operating systems to access
the same material.

If an affiliate of the ITF asks me how they should connect to the Internet, my
advice would have to be that they should seek the most reasonably priced option
that allows full Internet access to the World-Wide Web and the other open
standard elements of the Internet. Users who wish to connect with an additional
value-added service such as Compuserve can do so, but they should remember that
there are certain facilities there that not everyone can access.

This, unfortunately, then must lead me to ask how open system compliant the
Labornet network is. From my understanding, unions or individuals need to
subscribe additionally to the APC system in order to access Labornet
information. I may be wrong here, but I am under the impression that this
information is only available to Labornet subscribers and not to everyone else
who has access to the Internet. In addition to providing Web sites such as
ours, the Internet also allows for the creation of mailing lists such as this.
I would strongly argue for trade union activists to commit themselves to an open
standard approach.

I've only recently joined this list, but I would encourage debate, so please let
us know what you think.

Richard Flint
Communications' Department Secretary
International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)
Internet: flint_richard@itf.org.uk

More information about the ITF can be found on our Web page at:

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