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A new year message from the ITF general secretary

31 Dec 2017
Sisters and brothers, I want to wish the transport workers of the world a very Happy New Year for 2018.

2017 brought us challenges, but I am in no doubt that we are stronger now than we were a year ago. While globally we continue to be faced with economic and political ideologies that are anti-union and anti-worker, ITF affiliates continue to carry the fight back. We will continue to go from strength to strength in 2018. Let our achievements over 2017 serve to give hope to transport workers the world over.

In February, 255 participants representing 33 unions from 12 countries attended the Arab World Regional Conference in Tunisia, where the plan to Congress was laid out, putting young workers at the forefront.

Itf Youth Committee Straight 2

In March, some 250 young workers from nearly 80 unions across all ITF regions took part in the ITF Youth Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The spirit, determination and leadership of our young transport workers was inspiring.

Looking at our sectors over 2017, in road transport we exposed labour abuses in European trucking that are taking place on the watch of huge multinationals who have the economic power to do something about it. Our campaigning has brought IKEA to the table to begin to address exploitation in its supply chain.

We also launched a global campaign on an anti-union logistics giant, XPO, with strong affiliate leadership. The XPO campaign incorporates a capital strategy for workers and highlights how the ITF is being smarter, braver, and more determined than ever before.

XPO French unions

May Day 2017 was Our Public Transport day, when affiliates around the world highlighted our global campaigning to strengthen and improve public transport for everyone. The programme is progressing, policy makers are starting to sit up and our women leaders are leading the organising drives.

Our railway unions continue to fight privatisation and build solidarity, with a notable victory in India, when the government announced in November, after our strong campaigning, that it would not be privatising the Indian Railways.

In maritime, the ITF’s remarkable team of inspectors continue to drive the FOC campaign, protecting abandoned crews and fighting for unpaid wages throughout the year, notably in Algeria, UK, UAE & Australia. Our cabotage task force is growing in influence, defending local seafarers and their communities. The ITF’s first major Cabotage conference took place in June in Cape Town, in conjunction with our Seafarers and Dockers conferences, which were attended by nearly 300 participants from 60 countries.

Also in June, the ITF and Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) held the first international workshop to promote the guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers. 

Out on the docks, we have launched a global alliance to fight for standards in DP World, and our campaign on global port operator ICTSI has uncovered a pattern of violations against labour rights, throughout its global operations, from Madagascar to Indonesia to Papua, New Guinea to Australia. With strategic, supply chain campaigning we have taken to the streets to build pressure on this anti-union company and defend our members.

Port Lae Dockworkers _ITF

Our fisheries campaigning is producing results, with the ITF welcoming the Thai union and Greenpeace back in July on environmental and labour standards as well as progress in the ILO on securing legal protection for migrant fishers.

In civil aviation, we held our conference in London in March, where we had strong debates on some key issues in this fast-changing sector. Despite the challenges, we are building our power to defend aviation workers globally. Our Airports organising programme is helping us grow in some key airport hubs. We made a breakthrough in September with the Qatari government, when we agreed to a framework on worker grievances in Qatar Airways, and our low cost carrier campaign accelerated with the news in December that Ryanair will recognise unions.

We won the Chevron tax case, forcing them to pay millions back to the public purse, and we are seeing more and more rulings against Uber, who are a taxi transport company and should behave as such.

Chevron report cover

Our commitment to achieve tangible gains for transport workers was heard this year, loudly and clearly at the International Labour Organisation' (ILO) conference. Our relationship with the ILO was firmly cemented as we demonstrated our ability and power to enforce change, by highlighting our interventions in Bangladesh, Botswana, Cambodia, Egypt, Turkey and the UK.

In November, we held the Women Transport Workers Conference in Marrakech, which was a hugely significant conference in furthering our aims to see women leading all ITF work, through all projects and structures, but equally it was a sober reminder to everyone in the ITF, that we have a long way to go to reach this goal. The conference was all about worker voices – these are the voices we need driving our campaigning. 

These are hugely positive developments that our president Paddy Crumlin, myself, the entire ITF team and more importantly, you – our affiliates - have all worked tirelessly to achieve. We recognise your invaluable contribution. But there is plenty more for us to do...

The challenges we face now are huge. Automation, new technology and the future of work has been on the agenda of every conference in 2017. It affects every worker, in every section, in every region. But our message is simple - we can shape the change. We held our first automation affiliate working group meeting in June in Stockholm, and have a plan to take to Congress. We will ensure transport worker voices are at the heart of the debate.

FOW-image -quote _Cassandra _Ogren _HERO

At the end of November, 280 delegates from 85 unions across 25 countries, arrived in Cartagena, Colombia, to set the direction for the Latin America & Caribbean region on the Pathway to Congress. A powerful conference pushed forward the women agenda, the youth agenda, and gave the regional leadership the drive needed going into the next period.

Internally, our regional reviews are progressing, with the Asia Pacific review implemented, including a new ITF office in Singapore, opened in September. And we are preparing ourselves for Congress in Singapore. On our Pathway to Congress in 2018 we have the Fisheries Conference in Madrid on 29-30 January, the Urban Transport Committee in London on 20-22 February and the Africa Regional Conference in Abuja on 6-9 March. And then, of course...the Congress itself in Singapore, 14-20 October 2018.

Being a transport worker and trade unionist is not an easy task in the modern world. As we, collectively, continue to change the ITF to be the affiliate-led, relevant, powerful vehicle that our unions and workers need, we will not always get it right.

But, despite all the challenges we’ve faced so far, we have learnt, and we have come out fighting.

Let us build on our successes through 2018. And let’s do it together. We are the difference.

Happy New Year, and long live ITF!

Stephen Cotton


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