Maritime Bulletin www.odin.tc
Study into SUR (Seafarers Union of Russia) and ITF finance and working schemes
SUR has an annual income of some $40 million (Forty Million USD)


Ive been working on the study of ITF and SUR (Seafarers Union of Russia) activities and finance for almost a year. It was a difficult undertaking, I felt myself like a spy trying to break into some awful secrets of a big State or drug cartel. On the face of it, ITF/SUR resemble a public park open to everyone, with attractions, refreshments and free beer for union members. But a researcher would soon find a bunker underneath, made of steel and concrete, and accessible only for initiated. Thanks to quite a number of people interested in ITF/SUR unmasking, and to my curiosity and fastidiousness, I managed to dig out some interesting facts and figures, which lead to rather shocking conclusions.
Of course my estimations are general, but detalized assessment of the ITF/SUR finance is impossible due to absolute absence of public audit.

The main findings of the study:
According to the number of SUR members, stated by SUR, and to several Collective and Special Agreements, which were provided by the insiders, SUR has an annual income of some $40 million (Forty Million USD).

ITF/SUR have four items of income, according to Special Agreements:
Membership fees paid by seafarers 2% of gross salary, i.e. two percent deducted from seafarers actual income, with all bonuses, overtime, etc., including such extra fees as a surcharge for sailing in war risk zones;
A tribute paid for each position/seafarer by a shipowner - $150 annually, is paid to SUR as Union Activities Donation;
A tribute paid for each position/seafarer by a shipowner - $250 annually, is paid to ITF as donation to ITF Welfare Fund;
A tribute paid for each position/seafarer by a shipowner - $10 monthly, is paid to ITF as donation to Seafarers Employment Promotion Fund (SEPF).

Investigating ITF profits is an almost impossible task. The financial side of ITF activities is covered up as rigorously as any military secret. Basing on available data and on extrapolation method, total income of ITF and affiliated national trade unions may be estimated as more than $500 million annually.

On all ITF and ITF-relevant websites there is no information with regards to:
Number of seafarers members of ITF and affiliated unions;
Number of Collective Agreements how many companies and seafarers are covered by ITF agreements;
Number of seafarers paying ITF membership, willingly or not;
ITF annual income per items of income.

An owner of an average 20 crew vessel pays to ITF and affiliated union some $900 monthly, PLUS 2% of gross wage of each crew, deducted from seamens wages under the Agreement terms.

A company which signs an Agreement with ITF and affiliated union undertakes not to hire seamen who are not ITF members and who dont pay membership fees.

There is no article in ITF/SUR Agreements stipulating the voluntary basis of ITF membership and fee payment, which is a violation of basic human rights.

Available documents on ITF/SUR websites dont explain where the money they collect from the shipping go, how do they spend those money, for what purposes, and how much.

The basic principle of ITF/SUR is very simple in fact, and is used in many scam schemes. They inflamed the problems of abandoned crews and wage delays to a size of a global threat, which can be fought only by granting them special authority and power. They self-proclaimed themselves as the true and only defenders of seamens rights.
Still, there are no statistics available on number of abandons, wage delays and other violations of labor rights. According to available data, including data presented by ITF/SUR, not more than 0.05% of total number of seafarers in the world is risking abandons or wage delays annually. To help those 0.05%, ITF together with affiliated national trade unions extorts annually some half a billion USD, and force into their Agreements and membership all the world shipping and all seafarers.

According to ITF Agreements, shipowner is having 12 obligations. Hes responsible for everything, and he pays for everything.
Trade Union has 2 (Two) obligations, both having nothing to do with seafarers. According to first obligation, Trade Union is to issue a Green Certificate to a shipowner for vessel covered by Agreement. According to second, Trade Union is obliged to transfer some of the money it receives from shipowner on account of Welfare Fund. Not many seafarers know whats this Fund about, mostly they dont know the name of the Fund, let alone its purposes.
Shipowner is at risk all the time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hes risking his ships, crews, funds, reputation everything is at stake and can be destroyed literally in minutes, if its small or middle sized company. Seafarer is at risk in understandable way his profession, its specifics, is a risky undertaking.
Trade Unions dont have any risks at all, they are not responsible for anything, they dont have any obligations, they have nothing to fear at all.

SUR doesnt do a thing to change the situation with Russian authorities attitude towards Russian seamen working abroad, which is openly hostile. Russian seamen working abroad are treated as downgrades comparing to those who are working on Russia-flagged vessels, theyre discriminated in quite a number of ways. The reason is simple SUR has to be on good terms with the authorities, or else SUR is risking its power over marine labor force and shipping companies. If to betray seamen is what it takes to be States favourite maritime trade union, then so be it.
ITF and SUR betrayed seamen in piracy problem by supporting the UNs Fighting piracy strategy. Trade Unionists nowadays hamper the only measure which can guarantee piracy-safe sailing the wide-spread and internationally recognized use of private armed guards.
So-called Black List in the shipping, slated by Trade Unionists as lawless and rotten practice used by ship owners and crewing companies, is in fact, a practice of blotting out men not fit for their job and position. By prohibiting Black List, trade unionists actually, force ship owners into hiring a pig in a poke, jeopardizing their vessels and crews.
Present day ITF policy is a policy of stamping out highly qualified seamen with low quality, but controllable, labor from third world countries.

SUR directorate is under full control of London-based ITF.
SUR is at merciless war with Russian private shipping sector.
SUR policy and practice lead to degradation of national system of maritime education.
Nobody ever, in any way, authorized SUR to claim itself as representative of all Russian seafarers, but thats exactly what it does, speaking on behalf of Russian seamen, and stating demands which are not backed by the overwhelming majority of Russian shipping community.
SUR is trying to influence Russian maritime policy on governmental level, with SURs president recently included as a member into the main Russian maritime governmental body, Maritime Board. As the head of an organization which is controlled from abroad, he should be expelled from Maritime Board, because interests and pursuits of his organization are openly hostile to national interests.

ITF policy when scrutinized makes an impression of deliberate destruction of present-day maritime labor system. ITF is trying to replace uncontrollable market-based cadre system with a system based on cadres coming from third world countries the system which will be controlled by ILO and ITF, or so they think.

ITF developed into one of the main threats to world shipping:
- destroying the main asset of world shipping, its cadres;
- persecuting small and middle sized shipowners (and FOCs), and assisting, directly and indirectly, big companies and organizations in their market monopolization;
- violating laws by forcing shipowners into signing ITF Collective (and Special) Agreements, and seafarers into ITF (or affiliated trade unions) membership, using MLC 2006 as a tool;
- inducing labor-related corruption and crime in developing countries;
- transforming world maritime labor market into a controllable structure, mastered by ILO and ITF brass.

ITF and its fraternity of national trade unions, or putting it straight, a Mob, is an enemy to be fought, either to destroy it, or at least, to deprive it of its power over millions of people throughout the world.

Voytenko Mikhail
2013

Those interested may download pdf file here: http://www.odin.tc/articles/sur/sur-itf.pdf
Studys in Russian, but its not War and Peace or Crime and Punishment, its mostly calculations and numbers, attached documents are mostly in English (Collective and Special Agreements with Sovcomflot\Novoship\Palmali), so it wont be too difficult for translation, even Google translation should be satisfactory enough to get main findings and ideas.

DOWNLOAD the study:
http://www.odin.tc/articles/sur/sur-itf.pdf 

Voytenko Mikhail
October 2013