Can we build a new global unionism through international campaigning? This article looks at what we can learn from the highly successful maritime internationalism of the ITF Flags of Convenience campaign.
At first glance international shipping does not appear the most natural terrain for effective international solidarity. It is a highly competitive industry where capital is mobile in the most literal way. And for nearly 80 years ship owners have adopted Flags of Convenience – the practice of registering ships outside the country of ownership – to avoid regulation, and particularly restrictions on sourcing labour from low wage countries.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), however, has continually challenged this attempted race to the bottom with impressive results. Over sixty years, the Flag of Convenience (FOC) campaign has developed strong industrial, institutional, and political dimensions. Built on the bedrock of solidarity between dockers’ and seafarers’ unions, the FOC campaign has developed an international collective bargaining framework, a strong enforcement mechanism, and the capacity to influence supra-national state regulation. (more…)