The ITF has been helping seafarers since 1896 and today represents the interests of seafarers worldwide, of whom over 600,000 are members of ITF affiliated unions. The ITF is working to improve conditions for seafarers of all nationalities and to ensure adequate regulation of the shipping industry to protect the interests and rights of the workers. The ITF helps crews regardless of their nationality or the flag of their ship.
The ITF has opposed the system of Flags of Convenience (FOCs) for over 50 years. These flags, including the largest register in the world (Panama) allow shipowners, who have no genuine link to the flag state, to register their ships there in order to avoid the taxation and regulation which their own countries would impose.
The ITF was founded in 1896 in London by European seafarers' and dockers' union leaders who realized the need to organise internationally against strike breakers. Today the ITF organises workers in ships, ports, railways, road freight and passenger transport, inland waterways, fisheries, tourism and civil aviation.
The ITF represents transport workers at world level and promotes their interests through global campaigning and solidarity. It is dedicated to the advancement of independent and democratic trade unionism, and to the defence of fundamental human and trade union rights. It is opposed to any form of totalitarianism, aggression and discrimination.
The ITF is one of several Global Federation Unions allied with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
What does the ITF do?
The ITF's role is to support its member trade unions and find ways of defending the interests of transport workers in the global economy.
The ITF brings unions together to share information and build common strategies. Unions meet in major union international conferences to discuss their industry or their transnational employer. Specialist international task groups deal with more specific and technical issues such as occupational health.
The ITF supports its affiliates to take solidarity action with each other. When transport unions in one country are in conflict with employers or governments and need direct help from unions elsewhere, the ITF can provide international support. In recent disputes, international action and international pressure have proved a major, sometimes decisive, factor in achieving union objectives.
To highlight issues of particular concern to transport workers, the ITF runs international campaigns. These have included worldwide actions by rail workers on safety, aviation workers against 'air rage', road transport workers against excessive working hours and port workers fighting union-busting in ports. The ITF's oldest and most famous campaign is against Flag of Convenience shipping.
The ITF aims to keep its affiliates informed of worldwide developments that have an impact on their local or national activities. The ITF also provides analysis to others such as the press and media on developments in the transport industry which affect workers. The ITF maintains this web site with information about all its current activities.
The ITF represents transport workers' interests in international bodies which take decisions affecting jobs, employment conditions, or safety. Such bodies include the International Labour Organisation, the International Maritime Organisation, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The ITF also takes up the interests of transport workers with the OECD, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.
Who can join the ITF?
Any trade union with members in the transport industry can apply to join the ITF. There are criteria and procedures which a union must follow before it can become an affiliate. For an application form and further information, please contact the ITF.
How is the ITF financed?
The ITF's general activities are financed from the affiliation fees of its member unions. The size of the fee is based on the size of the union's membership. Reduced affiliation rates may be available for unions with fewer resources.
The ITF uses these funds to run its activities and support its affiliates. Maritime activities have their own special funding which supports the FOC Campaign and provides welfare support for seafarers worldwide.
Who runs the ITF?
The ITF is run by its member unions. The main policy-making body is the Congress which meets every four years. All affiliates can send voting delegates to the Congress. They elect: The President and five Vice-Presidents (four from different world regions and one Women's Vice-President). The General Secretary who is in charge of the ITF Secretariat with its full-time staff. The Executive Board made up of 40 representatives from affiliates; this meets twice a year and is in overall charge of the ITF between Congresses.