GREENWICH UNISON branch was recently visited by an international guest. Cem Dinc is the president of "Limter-Is", the harbour, shipyard, ship construction and repair workers' union of Turkey.
He was visiting to highlight the appalling number of injuries and deaths that take place in the industry in Turkey, particularly at Desan dockyard in Tuzla, where the union describes work accidents as a "massacre".
The union also says that, in Turkey as a whole, 1,000 workers die every year and 3,000 become disabled as a result of workplace accidents.
One of the areas with the highest number of accidents is the dockyards.
In Turkey there are 62 dockyards, four owned by the army, two by the state and the others are privatised. The dockers in Tuzla have been struggling against increasing accidents for many years.
This struggle became more intensified this year when on 27-28 February and on 16 June, dockyard workers went on strike and gained a huge echo across Turkey. The February strike stopped 60% of production and the June strike 70%.
The June strike united many sectors of society and a solidarity movement arose. Cem Dinc reported how many demands, such as a reduction in the working day, had been won as a result of the strikes, but there was still a long way to go. Cem also recognised that the current economic crisis would intensify the dockers' struggle.
But what must be realised is that this was a union leader prepared to make sacrifices. In June 2006, Cem was imprisoned by the state, at the behest of his bosses. As a result of protests, he was released within a month.
In September 2006, the Turkish state conducted a sweep, arresting left Limter-Is activists. Cem was arrested again and imprisoned for six months.
The action against Limter-Is follows the murder in March 1999 of Suleyman Yeter, a member of the union's executive, who died under torture.
The union is now asking for international support in its campaign for the dockers.