I’ve 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 seafarer’s 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 seamen’s 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 don’t 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 don’t 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
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. He’s
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 what’s this Fund about, mostly they don’t
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. He’s risking
his ships, crews, funds, reputation – everything is at stake and can be
destroyed literally in minutes, if it’s small or middle sized company. Seafarer
is at risk in understandable way – his profession, its’ specifics, is a risky
Trade Unions don’t have any risks at all, they are not responsible for anything,
they don’t have any obligations, they have nothing to fear at all.
SUR doesn’t 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, they’re 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 State’s favourite maritime trade union,
then so be it.
ITF and SUR betrayed seamen in piracy problem by supporting the UN’s “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
Nobody ever, in any way, authorized SUR to claim itself as representative of all
Russian seafarers, but that’s 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
SUR’s 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
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
- 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.
Those interested may download pdf file here: http://www.odin.tc/articles/sur/sur-itf.pdf
Study’s in Russian, but it’s not War and Peace or Crime and Punishment, it’s
mostly calculations and numbers, attached documents are mostly in English (Collective
and Special Agreements with Sovcomflot\Novoship\Palmali), so it won’t be too
difficult for translation, even Google translation should be satisfactory enough
to get main findings and ideas.
DOWNLOAD the study: