Stephen Cotton is the general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) – a global union federation of 700 trade unions representing 16 million workers in 150 countries in the seafaring, port, road, rail and aviation sectors. He was elected to the position at the 43rd ITF Congress held in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2014.
Cotton joined the ITF in 1993 as the head of the agreements unit in the maritime section. He was later promoted to the position of assistant secretary of the special seafarers’ department (SSD), secretary of the SSD and maritime coordinator prior to his appointment as acting general secretary in October 2012.
Under Cotton’s leadership of the ITF’s maritime section, significant achievements were made that have positively impacted the maritime industry and bettered the lives of seafarers. Under his tenure, the ITF inspectorate expanded from 35 to 147 inspectors and contacts, and ships covered under ITF collective bargaining agreements increased to over 12,000 from less than 2,000. Cotton oversaw major Flags of Convenience (FOC) policy changes and led the introduction of ‘Oslo to Delhi’ and Mexico City policies, which laid the foundation for the landmark 2006 signing of the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) – establishing a set of international minimum standards enforceable by international law.
Throughout his career at the ITF, Cotton has sought to improve the operations of the ITF, focusing on building affiliates’ power and streamlining the operations of the secretariat in order to make a real difference in the lives of transport workers and influence lead industry players in the transport sector. Under Cotton’s leadership as general secretary, the ITF has transformed into a proactive campaigning organisation allowing the ITF and its affiliates to secure industry-leading contracts and protocols with key multinational companies in the transportation sectors, including aviation, maritime and road transport.
In 2014, Cotton received the United Seamen’s Service (USS) Admiral of the Ocean Sea Award (AOTOS), the maritime industry’s most prestigious award, in recognition of his work for defending the well-being and fair treatment of seafarers around the world.
Cotton is a trustee of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, the International Maritime Training Trust and serves on the United Seaman’s Service governing body.
Paddy Crumlin has been the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) National Secretary since 2000 and International Transport Workers’ Federation President since 2010. Paddy sits on the ACTU Executive Board, is an Executive Member of International Transport Workers Federation, Delegate of International Labour Organisation and Trustee of ITF Seafarers' Welfare Trust. Paddy has wide involvement in the port authority, towage, shipping, hydrocarbon, diving, cruise ship and stevedoring industries in Australia and internationally. He also keeps a watchful eye on the retirement funds of MUA members as Chairman of the Maritime Super Pty Limited and took up a position as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Workers Capital (CWC) in 2015.
In addition to his global work with the ITF, Paddy has also represented international seafarers at the International Labour Organisation on maritime conventions for over 15 years in a senior capacity. In that period, Paddy played a central role in bringing about the introduction, and ratification in 2006, of the Maritime Labour Convention, which is widely known as the “seafarers’ bill of rights” because it establishes minimum working and living standards for all seafarers on ships across the globe. He played a key role in establishing the International Bargaining Forum (IBF), which brings together every two years the ITF and the international maritime employers that make up the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG), with the end result being a framework agreement that ITF-affiliated unions advance in local negotiations with companies in their own country.
David Heindel has been the secretary-treasurer of the Seafarers International Union; Atlantic, Gulf, Lakes and Inland Waters District/National Maritime Union, since February 1997.
In August 2002, he was elected vice chairman of the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s (ITF’s) Seafarers’ Section. Since then, he extensively has worked – both domestically and as part of U.S. delegations in international forums – with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the International Labor Organization and the International Maritime Organization on shipboard and port-security issues as well as the international project for a new Seafarers Identity Document. He helped protect mariners’ rights under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (which took effect July 2004), and continues to lead the ITF’s delegates at the International Bargaining Forum which secures new agreements for tens of thousands of mariners worldwide .
During the ITF Congress in August 2006, he was elected to a four-year term as first vice chair of the Seafarers' Section. At the ITF Congress in August 2010, he was elected chair of the ITF’s Seafarers’ Section, thereby becoming only the second American ever to hold that post. He was re-elected at the ITF Congress in August 2014.
Heindel began his career with the SIU in 1973, when he graduated from the program for entry-level mariners conducted at the union’s affiliated training facility in Piney Point, Maryland. He primarily sailed aboard deep-sea vessels as a member of the engine department, before coming ashore in 1980 to work as a patrolman in his native New Orleans. Among the other jobs he has held with the union are patrolman at the SIU halls in Philadelphia and Baltimore, port agent at the Philadelphia hall and assistant vice president of the SIU’s Gulf Coast Region.
In 2015, he was appointed to the U.S. Labour Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy.
Øystein Aslaksen, ITF Railway Chair
Øystein Aslaksen is the International Secretary of his union, Norsk Lokomotivmannsforbund in Norway. Prior to this Øystein was the Vice Chair of the Section and then Chair from 1990-2010. Øystein was elected ITF Chair of the Railway Section at the Durban Conference in 2003, and as part of this role he is a member of management committee and Executive Board of ITF.
In Øystein’s capacity as Chair he leads on the implications of privatisation work which is a priority for the Railway Section; fighting privatisation and liberalisation now under attack because of private partnership. Øystein also led his union on the first privatisation in Norway, establishing CBA’s with the private companies and keeping union density at 100%.
Oystein’s European work has included tackling issues of cross boarder driving and preventing social dumping within the railway sector. Øystein is also a part of the Steering Group for Our Public Transport, which is an ITF Priority Project which will build union membership in order to win an alternative model of public transport based on public ownership, public investment, climate jobs, and employment and organisational rights for transport workers organised in strong unions.
Being in a union is a family tradition with Oystein’s father also who worked on the railways. Øystein became an active trade unionist since he finished high schools at 18 years old.
As well of his commitment to the global movement, Øystein also is the Chair of Advisory locomotive group in ETF. To date Øystein is an active locomotive driver driving for the Norwegian freight company which he has done since 1977.
Brigitta Paas, ITF Co-Vice-President for Women
Brigitta Paas is the international coordinator and Dutch Region Executive Board member at FNV and the women's co-Vice President of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), sharing the seat with Ekaterina Yordanova, President of the Federation of Transport Trade Unions of Bulgaria. Paas is also a member of the ITF's Executive Board, a position she has held since 2006.
Since 2005, Paas’ work has focused on protecting the rights of workers in road transport and inland navigation sectors. In her current capacity, she’s negotiated collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) for national bus and rail workers and lobbied politicians, governments, colleagues and the Danube and Rhine commissions to protect and secure a level playing field for both women workers and transport workers.
In 1990, Paas became involved in FNV and was an active shop steward until 1995 when she was terminated by her employer for union activities. In 1995, she was hired in a staff position at FNV. In her first position at FNV, Paas was pivotal in negotiating and securing the first collective bargaining agreement for workers in flower binding centres. She led efforts to improve the conditions for workers in the flower industry, obtained permanent contracts for female flex workers, and secured equal pay for equal work. Her determination and dedication led to the first court judgement in European history in which women won a court case resulting in equal pay.
Paas is also a member of the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) women’s committee, and in 2000 was the first women directly elected to the Executive Board of the ETF.
Tony Sheldon, ITF Road Transport Chair
Tony Sheldon is National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in Australia. As TWU National Secretary, Tony led the widely praised TWU 'Safe Rates' campaign, where his negotiation skills and leadership of the TWU's campaign were instrumental in garnering community and political support for the Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012, landmark legislation which is aimed at improving safety and conditions in the road transport industry. Under Tony’s leadership the TWU has led campaigns for the future for the Australian aviation industry.
In 2014 Tony was elected Chairperson of the International Transport Workers’ Federation Road Transport Sector. In this role Tony continues his pursuit of building a safe and fair transport industry where workers have and use their collective power guided by clear, strong principles.
In October 2015 Tony successfully led a delegation to the United Nations labour body, the International Labour Organisation, to secure support for a plan based on the Australian Safe Rates model to tackle unfair and unsafe remuneration as the root cause of the high global death toll in trucking.
Born in Caringbah, Sydney, Tony attended De La Salle College (Cronulla, NSW) and is proud father to Liam and Lily. He has completed postgraduate studies in Industrial Law at the University of NSW and is a graduate of the Harvard University Trade Union program. He worked as a cleaner, bartender and garbage collector, and his professional union activity began in 1988. He joined the TWU in the 1990s. He led the NSW branch of TWU from 1999 to 2008 and has been TWU National Secretary since 2006.
Tony serves as Vice President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a member of the Australian Labor Party (NSW Branch) Administrative Committee, as a Board member to TWU Super and is a former Senior Vice President of the Australian Labour Party.