Skip to main content

Paraguay organising project

SOMUPA, a new ITF union for the Paraná river

The Paraná river flows from Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands to Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. It is South America’s second-largest river, after the Amazon, and supports the livelihoods of 100 million people.

In Paraguay, the river is used to transport goods from the soybean and stevia fields. The crews on these ships face considerable challenges on a daily basis.

The plight of Paraguay’s inland transport workers

Despite vast growth in Paraguay’s economy, workers – especially on ships – face unsafe conditions, and are barely paid enough to live on.

It’s a poor country and workers clamour for jobs without bothering about contracts, paperwork or even tax. Companies know that, if they register in Paraguay, they will spend less on wages and can let their ships deteriorate to such a state that they’re unliveable.

SOMUPA is ITF’s response

The ITF and our Argentinian affiliate, SOMU - a maritime workers’ union - have created a new union to support Paraguayans working on the Paraná.

It’s called SOMUPA (Sindicato Obreros Maritimos Unidos del Paraguay) and it protects workers against exploitation by shipping companies. These companies have tried their best to stop it happening – for example, by blacklisting the workers associated with it – but the union now has more than 200 members.

As part of the ITF family, SOMUPA members benefit from solidarity, resources and contacts around the globe to support them. They’ve achieved collective bargaining agreements with the shipping companies employing them - 70 per cent of the workforce is now better off.

What can you do?

To find out more or get involved, email

SOMUPA needs your support. Workers are still threatened and harassed and companies feed misinformation to local media to damage its reputation.

Meanwhile, SOMUPA is busy making sure its agreements - our best hope for improving the lives of inland navigators - are properly enforced.

We want to hear from you

Share your organising efforts. We want to celebrate your successes on the ITF website! Just email