The view from Indonesia: Hanafi Rustandi, president of the Indonesian Seafarers’ Union

‘We agree with the Cornell paper, the ITF discussion document on Climate Change. It is very long term, it is educational, it shows we will have to train our members.’

It’s sometimes said that developing countries are less willing to act on climate change, preferring to lay responsibility at the door of the industrialised powers. But Hanafi doesn’t think like this. Pointing to the example of forestry in Indonesia, which has many parallels with coal, Hanafi gets passionate:

‘Our forests have been destroyed. We need to build them back up, but this time we want to keep them. If we cut them down again it will do a lot of damage to the world. We want to save the planet.’

However, he knows that these are complex issues, and the poor workers who rely on forestry, such as loggers, truck drivers, and rail workers, have few choices if they are going to make a living.  All the same, reaching out to these workers is crucial.

‘We hope that the ITF will set up an educational system so that we can train our members. Political education is very important.’

He seems to have a natural inclination to connect the challenges facing transport workers to wider issues.

‘We need to create solidarity across sectors. It is other sectors that will be damaged by climate change as well.’

Perhaps this is because as an Indonesian, Hanafi is acutely aware of the delicate relationship between humans and their environment.

‘We have three big issues: our forests which are being destroyed; our waters which are being overfished; and the tsunamis which are coming more often.’

Bayla Sow, general secretary, the Senegalese aviation union

I’m really pleased the ITF organised this conference. It’s a new subject for us, in Africa its usually only NGOs who deal with climate change.

We normally think of our problems in terms of short term survival. We have famine, we have health problems, and there is also education. But when I get home I will definitely put climate change on my union’s agenda. We need to educate the members.

So I’m really pleased that the meeting today decided to hold another conference looking at the issue in Africa. Our situation is a bit different to Europe or America. We don’t have advanced transportation systems. We used to have rail, but it is dying. The World Bank is only interested in building roads.

And pollution is a really big problem. In Africa we tend to import old cars, they smoke a lot. There isn’t really much public transport, only taxis. Its an informal sector, drivers just don’t have the money to buy newer cars.

Even in civil aviation, there are a lot of small companies that can only afford old planes. And these are highly polluting too.

At the moment our main issues in the union are privatisation and temporary work, but I want to change this.

Stamping heels and strong unions: Congress gets underway

Jeremy Anderson from the ITF comms team blogs from the opening plenary:

Congress opened with a bang. A crack of drums to be precise. The assembled marching band were made their welcome felt alright. Ingo Marowsky was sitting next to me, and I’m pretty sure jumped off his seat.

Marcelo Ebrard Causabon – the mayor of Mexico City – was one of the first to speak. Wearing a genial smile, Marcelo gave the impression that coming to address international trade unionists was just up his street.

‘We are a left wing government. I think the entire federal government is here, because we are your friends.’

But Marcelo had serious messages as well.

‘We are very happy about the theme. If we don’t strengthen workers, we cannot build a democratic economy. We must build strong unions.’

‘Climate change is something we must fight. Take Mexico City. It is a valley and floods are becoming a big problem.’

As Marcelo left, I wondered how long it would take him to wade through the waiting press pack. But he confidently glided through the forest of tv cameras and microphones.

An unshakeable belief in trade unions and withering attacks on neoliberalism. Not bad for the mayor of one the world’s largest cities. If only the ITF received a similar welcome everywhere it went.

The political rhetoric is taking a break for a bit, and has been replaced by the stamping feet of Mexican dancers – for now.