2017 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award

Ken Fleming

Ken Fleming

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that Ken Fleming of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and SIPTU is the recipient of the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

Ken has been an inspector in the ITF since 2006 and the ITF Co-coordinator for Britain and Ireland since 2012 and has sought over the past decade to prevent the exploitation of seafarers on some vessels operating under Flags of Convenience visiting various ports including Cork.  Ken has recouped millions of euro in unpaid wages for foreign seafarers in Irish ports, has had several vessels detained and has ensured their crews are repatriated home.

He has tenaciously and passionately fought for the rights of seafarers and fishers on the seas and has become one of the best known and respected trade union officials in the world.

More recently, Mr. Fleming has been engaged in an international campaign to ensure decent working conditions, employment rights, proper wages and legal protection to the migrant fishers who work in the Irish and the UK fishing fleets. He called for a major overhaul of the Irish fishing industry, claiming in a submission to an Oireachtas Committee that the current regulatory permit scheme for migrant fishers has not worked and instead has led to legalised slavery for many hundreds of migrant fishers.

According to James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee,which presents this annual award:

“Ken Fleming has been willing to challenge the official silence on the blatant exploitation of many seafarers and migrant fishers in ships operating under Flags of Convenience in Ireland and the UK. He is a fearless, passionate and a determined defender of the workers who have been denied their rights and continually he exposes and challenges a system which treats many of them as virtual slaves”

James Nolan continued,

“Ken has bravely exposed the exploitative working practices in sections of the marine and fishing industries and he has sought to organise the migrant fishers. He has repeatedly called on the relevant State agencies to enforce a recent permit system which would allow these fishers the right to protect themselves against exploitation. We should not allow our fish to be caught or our goods to be transported or our passengers to be carried on the back of slave labour!  Ken Fleming is a worthy recipient of the 2017 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”

Responding,  Ken Fleming stated,

“I am deeply touched by the belief the Mother Jones committee have shown in my work, by selecting me for this very special award. It has been a very long and hard road, but this award has electrified me. The knowledge that a fully independent group not only recognise the work we have done, but fully support the determination to stamp out the scandalous abuse of workers completely, is inspiring. This award represents the most satisfying moment of my career.”

“It places the work of the ITF amongst a very special group of people that have devoted a great part of their working lives to see justice done. And it’s been a team effort – my fellow UK Inspectors, Liam Wilson and Darren Proctor, have faced the aggression with me head on in most ports in Ireland.”

“We can now look to the Spirit of Mother Jones for inspiration as I have a sense that she is now aware of our struggle, and my hunch is she will find a way to lend a hand.”

Video above shows Ken Fleming addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on 4th July 2017

Ken Fleming is a native of Dublin. He started work as a bus driver and worked his way through the SIPTU organisation until he was seconded from SIPTU to succeed the late Tony Ayton in the International Transport Workers’ Federation in 2006.

Ken attended the 2013 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival where in an unforgettable speech he spoke movingly and with empathy of the exploitation endured by many seafarers and fishers.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is privileged that Ken has accepted this award which is presented to people who act and work in the Spirit of Mother Jones. We are satisfied that our selection of Ken Fleming for the 2017 award is very true to this spirit.

The 2017 Award was presented to Mr. Fleming by the Cork Mother Jones Committee on today (Thursday) afternoon August 3rd at the Firkin Theatre, in the Shandon Historic Quarter of Cork.

Note:

The Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date have been,

 

  • 2013, Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts (Hillsborough Family Support Group)
  • 2014, Gareth Peirce, solicitor.
  • 2015 Fr Peter McVerry. Campaigner for the homeless.
  • 2016 Mr.  Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.

 

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