Delegates to the 43rd International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Congress held in Sofia, Bulgaria, August 10-16 took to heart the gathering’s slogan of “From Global Crisis to Global Justice: Transport Workers Fighting Back!”
Dealing with issues ranging as longstanding as the flag-of-convenience campaign to calling for fairness in the international campaign for DHL drivers, the more than 1,700 delegates representing 372 unions from 114 nations called for stronger laws around the world to protect workers. The MTD was well represented by delegates from the CWA, IAM, SIU and TCU as well as the port councils of Greater South Florida, Cleveland and St. Lawrence and Tributaries.
In opening the congress, ITF President Paddy Crumlin (who was reelected to a second four-year term) from the Maritime Union of Australia pointed out that 90 families hold as much wealth as half of the world’s population. He said it was time for all workers to stand together and fight back.
Crumlin reiterated that call at the convention’s end: “The ITF understands just how interconnected we all are and how powerful that can make us if we work hard together and build on the solidarity between working men and women across supply chains, across industries and across borders. The ITF lets brave men and women of the union movement know that their fight is not in vain, that they are part of something much bigger.”
Delegates unanimously elected Stephen Cotton to serve as ITF General Secretary. Cotton, who addressed the 2013 MTD Executive Board Meeting, had been serving as acting secretary following the retirement of David Cockroft in 2012.
Cotton told delegates that transportation and the workers who move goods connect the world.
“World trade dominates our national and international economies,” Cotton stated. “It is a mighty engine linking labor throughout the world. The mighty global economic engine has far too long been funneling the majority of its wealth into the hands of the few and not the many. It is an engine that should benefit all of us.”
The ITF staff compiled newsclips and film footage of numerous worker demonstrations from around the world since the London-based federation last met in convention four years ago. The video – which included scenes from America’s “Occupy Wall Street” campaign to Arab Spring to protests in Africa, Asia, Australia and South America – graphically demonstrated how workers around the world are fighting for the same thing at the same time – a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work.
In the Seafarers Section, David Heindel – secretary-treasurer of the MTD-affiliated Seafarers Union – was reelected chair. Delegates to that conference adopted resolutions calling for the fair treatment of mariners; for promoting new international workload, fatigue and crewing requirements; for an end to employment scams; and to stand in solidarity with Greek and Pakistani mariners. In addition to Heindel, James Given – president of the SIU of Canada and MTD Eastern Area Executive Board Member – was elected chair of the North American Seafarers Section caucus.
During the Joint Seafarers and Dockers Conference, delegates provided support for continued efforts to improve conditions for mariners sailing aboard runaway-flag vessels working with shipowners as well as via the ITF’s global network of portside inspectors.
TCU President and MTD Executive Board Member Robert Scardelletti was reelected chair of the ITF’s North American caucus. Also reelected to serve as caucus vice presidents were Machinists General Vice President and MTD Western Area Executive Board Member Sito Pantoja and Cleveland Port Maritime Council President John Baker from the Longshoremen.
Delegates to the ITF Congress strongly endorsed the federation’s “white ribbon” campaign calling for an end to violence against women. They called upon ITF affiliates to participate in a global day of action for this issue on November 25.