International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is a world organization, indeed. It is formed by a 621 transportation workers‘ trade union uniting about 5 million workers from 137 countries of the world. ITF was found in 1896 in London. Its founders are heads of European seamen‘s and dock workers trade unions who understood that in order to defend their rights they needed to unite globally. At present ITF represents interests of fleet, ports, railways, cargo and passenger transport, internal water ways, fishing workers, as well as tourism and civil aviation specialists.
ITF is a representative of workers on the world level and defends their interests by holding international actions and on the basis of solidarity. ITF activity is directed to development of independent and democratic trade unions movement and to defense of human rights, as well as defense of trade union organizations‘ rights. ITF resists any forms of totalitarism, agression or discrimination. It is also one of the ten World Trade Union Federations, belonging to the International Free Trade Unions Confederation. The most important function of ITF is to support organizations which are its members and to look for methods of defending interests of transport workers under the conditions of world economy.
ITF coordinates activities of organizations which are its members by carrying out solidarity actions. When a transport workers union in some country gets into conflict with employers or the Government and needs support from trade unions of other countries ITF organizes international support. Experience of the recent past shows that discussions, international actions and public pressure is an significant, and sometimes even the most important factor helping trade unions to reach their goals.
In order to draw a special attnetion to the specific problems of transport workers ITF prepares international campaigns. These include international railway workers actions to ensure safety, actions of civil aviation workers, motor transport workers demanding that working day be reduced, actions of port workers protesting against playing down the importance of trade union activities. The oldest and the best known is the international ITF action directed towards struggle against fleets with „flags of convenience“.
ITF informs its member organizations about international achievements that influence their regional and national activities. ITF specialists also analize transport development which has an impact on workers. ITF is a founder of the journal „Международный Транспорт” (International Transport), issued four times a year, it also has a web site www.itf.org.uk reflecting current events.
The main ITF activities are financed from its member organizations‘ fees. The amount of such fees depends on the number of trade union members. ITF uses these funds to develop its activites and to support its member organizations. Activitis of maritime department has its special financing, its funds are used for struggle against „flags of convenience“ and for charity support granted to seamen.
ITF is managed by organizations – ITF members. Its highest body is the Congress which is held once every four years and where trade unions send their delegates. The Congress elects: – the President and five vice-presidents (four from different regions and one women‘s representative); – the General Secretary who is transferred to work at the ITF Secretariat on a full time basis; – the Executive Committee consisting of representatives of 37 ITF member organizations. The Executive Committee gathers twice per year and is the highest body between the Congresses.
ITF is a partner of many internatoinal organizations. For example, the Federation is an actine participant of all the trilateral meetings of the International Labour Organization, it represents the interest of transport workers. ITF actively pursues that ILO convenions and recommendations regulating working conditions in the sphere of transport be adopted and ratified. ITF also cooperates with IMO (International Maritime Organization) and provides assistance in regulating sea transport and port industry relations. Recently ITF has taken every measure to soften demands set for the seamen by ILO convention in respect of documents confirming a seaman‘s identity.
The funds that ITF feceives from member fees, in the form of charges and donations, get to the ITF Fund, part of them is used for such projects as, for example, development of interclubs (or seamen‘s clubs) system (and in Lithuania, former USSR Republics, mosto f the Easter Europe and other countries – its revival). Centers which should for a reasonalbe price provide communications services and some entertainment for seamen are created or reconstructed in most ports in cooperation with ITF member organizations. Lithuanian Seafarers’ Union is an ITF member since 1996.