The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO was well represented among the record 2,500 delegates attending the quadrennial congress for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in Singapore October 14-20.
Within the U.S. and Canadian delegations were members from the MTD-affiliated Seafarers (SIU), Machinists (IAM), Transportation-Communications Union (TCU), Electrical Workers and Communications Workers.
Union members within the transportation modes of air, rail, road, maritime and tourism from more than 140 nations discussed and debated a series of resolutions brought before them. Of critical importance to the convention was the growing use of international logistics companies to utilize workers from low-wage countries for the movement of goods in nations with stronger labor rights.
SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel dubbed such actions as “FOC’s of the highways.”
Heindel was re-elected chair of the ITF’s Seafarers Section. His term will be for five years as the delegates approved a constitutional change to hold conventions every five years, starting with this congress period.
Of specific interest to the MTD and its affiliates, the delegates to the Seafarers Section pledged to continue their fight to enforce and strengthen cabotage laws around the world. MTD Eastern Area Executive Board Member Jim Given, who heads the ITF’s cabotage task force, presented the resolution to the body. Heindel reminded the delegates that the Seafarers’’ Rights International had just released its two-year study outlining 91 different countries have some type of cabotage laws.
At an extracurricular event held after one of the daily ITF Congressional sessions, delegates watched a short documentary on the dangers being experienced by those who make their living by fishing the world’s oceans. In addition, they received a book (Dreaming of a Better Life: Humans as Commodities by Stefan F. Lindberg and Lennart Johnsson) from the ITF Seafarers Trust providing graphic photos and details of what these workers and their families endure at work and at home.
ITF President Paddy Crumlin (also re-elected to another term) opened the convention by announcing this was the largest with more delegates from more unions and nations in the 122-year history of the organization. Congress delegates received a report that studied the effects automation may have on jobs over the next 40 years. It offered some efforts unions may employ to help their members retain their positions or benefit from the possible changes.
MTD Executive Board Members Sito Pantoja (IAM) and Robert Scardelletti (TCU) were re-elected by delegates from North America to serve as their representatives on the ITF Executive Board, as was Cleveland Port Maritime Council President John Baker.
Delegates unanimously returned ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton for five more years.
The ITF is a London-based organization working with transportation-related unions around the globe. Among maritime, it is best known for its fight against flags of convenience shipping and to help improve the lives and working conditions for all mariners.
MTD Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan served as an SIU delegate.