International Transport Workers' Federation

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is a democratic global union federation of transport workers' trade unions, founded in 1896. In 2017 the ITF had 677 member organizations in 149 countries, representing a combined membership of 19.7 million transport workers [1] in all industrial transport sectors: civil aviation, dockers, inland navigation, seafarers, road transport, railways, fisheries, urban transport  and tourism. The ITF represents the interests of transport workers' unions in bodies that take decisions affecting jobs, employment conditions or safety in the transport industry.

Full nameInternational Transport Workers' Federation
Members19.7 million
Affiliation677 affiliated unions
Key peopleStephen Cotton, General Secretary
Paddy Crumlin, President, Rob Johnston, Assistant General Secretary,
Office locationLondon, SE1
United Kingdom


The ITF works to improve the lives of transport workers globally, encouraging and organising international solidarity among its network of affiliates.

The ITF is allied with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Any independent trade union with members in the transport industry is eligible for membership of the organization.

The ITF represents the interests of transport workers' unions in bodies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The organization also informs and advises unions about developments in the transport industry in other countries or regions of the world, and organise international solidarity actions when member unions in one country are in conflict with employers or government.

The ITF's headquarters is located in London and it has offices in Amman, Brussels, Georgetown (Guyana), Moscow, Nairobi, New Delhi, Ouagadougou, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and Tokyo.

The International Transport Workers' Federation is governed by its constitution. The Constitution states that ITF is run by an elected executive board meeting twice a year.

The ITF executive is highly concerned about the effects of globalisation, the increased concentration of ownership of international transport companies, global warming, public service improvement, the privatisation of large formerly state-run transport enterprises and automation and the future of work. It notes that the World Trade Organization (WTO) plays a central role in this process and considers it necessary for unions to exert what pressure they can on the WTO to respect social and labour standards in its agreements. It is particularly concerned about the effect that the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) could have on transport workers by breaking down national transport regulations. It considers it important to oppose the inclusion of transport-related services in the GATS. It considers that the major international finance organisations, including the World Bank and regional development banks, have had a "serious negative impact both on the quality of transport services and on the employment and working conditions of transport workers." It also sees the neoliberal economic policies being promoted by regional blocks including the EU, MERCOSUR, ASEAN, NAFTA, and SADC as being generally injurious to transport workers. It believes it is necessary to create solidarity networks between trade unions, and to improve the coordination between ITF sections, so that effective responses can be made to large multinational business entities which span several regions and many sectors of workers.


The ITF was founded in 1896 at a meeting in London, organised by Havelock Wilson, Ben Tillett, Tom Mann and Charles Lindley. Initially named the International Federation of Ship, Dock and River Workers, in 1898, it absorbed the International Commission for Railwaymen, and so renamed itself as the "International Transport Workers' Federation". In 1904, its headquarters moved to Germany, then in 1919 to Amsterdam, where it grew, under the leadership of Edo Fimmen. By 1939, with World War II imminent, its headquarters moved to Bedford in England, then to London, where they remain.[2]

The federation's first post-war conference was held in 1946 in Zurich, where a new constitution was adopted. In 1949, it established a section for civil aviation workers, and in 1974 one for workers in tourism. It has campaigned heavily against flags of convenience, and in the late 1990s, the ITF operated a floating museum, the mV Global Mariner, which sailed around the world.[2][3] The vessel was originally built in England in 1979 as the mV Ruddbank, and sank in 2000 off the Venezuelan coast after colliding with a container ship.[4]

The ITF holds a congress every five years in accordance with the ITF Constitution, Rule IV. The congress has supreme authority within the ITF. The 40th Congress was held in Vancouver, Canada, from 14 to 21 August 2002. The 41st Congress was held in Durban, South Africa in August, 2006. The 42nd Congress was held in Mexico City from 5–12 August 2010. The 43d Congress - from 10-16 August, 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The 44th Congress was held in Singapore from 14-20 October 2018.


General Secretaries

1896: Ben Tillett[5]
1896: Robert Peddie[5]
1896: Tom Chambers[5]
1904: Ben Tillett[5]
1904: Hermann Jochade[5]
1919: Edo Fimmen[5]
1942: Jacobus Oldenbroek[5]
1950: Omer Becu[5]
1960: Pieter de Vries[5]
1965: Hans Imhof[5]
1968: Charles Blyth[5]
1977: Harold Lewis[5]
1993: David Cockcroft[5]
2014: Stephen Cotton


1893: Tom Mann[5]
1901: Tom Chambers[5]
1904: Ben Tillett[5]
1904: Hermann Jochade[5]
1920: Robert Williams[5]
1925: Charlie Cramp[5]
1933: Charles Lindley[5]
1946: John Benstead[5]
1947: Omer Becu[5]
1950: Robert Bratschi[5]
1954: Arthur Deakin[5]
1955: Hans Jahn[5]
1958: Frank Cousins[5]
1960: Roger Dekeyzer[5]
1962: Frank Cousins[5]
1965: Hans Düby[5]
1971: Fritz Prechtl[5]
1986: Jim Hunter[5]
1994: Eike Eulen[5]
1998: Umraomal Purohit[5]
2006: Randall Howard[5]
2010: Paddy Crumlin


  1. "About the ITF". Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  2. "History of the International Transport Workers' Federation". Modern Records Centre. University of Warwick. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  3. mv Global Mariner official site (no longer active)
  4. Wrecksite - mV Global Mariner
  5. "General Secretaries and Presidents of the ITF 1896-2010". International Transport Workers' Federation. Retrieved 9 May 2018.

See also

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