Bahamas

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has for many years been militant in its attitude towards flags of convenience.  The ITF is a trade union of an international nature (headquarters in London) which purports to act in the interests of seafarers generally, and particularly those who are serving on ships foreign to their own country of origin whose interests are not thus protected by powerful national unions.  The ITF’s avowed ultimate aim is to abolish the ‘convenience’ system.  The ITF has drawn up (unilaterally) a crew agreement purporting to fix crew wages at a level which they, the ITF, consider to be fair, regardless of the nationality of the crew concerned and they seek to impose their agreement on owners who employ foreign or mixed crews.  In the last 10-15 years there have been serious disputes involving industrial relation laws and instances of the ITF blacklisting certain vessels.  The affair of the Globtik Venus at le Havre in 1976 was such an example.  With its Filipino crew and Bahamas flag it became a symbol for the ITF to challenge shipowners flying convenience flags to provide better pay and conditions for their seamen.  The crew refused to sail her from le Havre and her owner took drastic measures to evict them forcibly from the ship.  Later a compromise was reached but threats to blacklist flags of convenience generally remained. The ‘phenomenon’, as it used to be called, of FOC has indeed become the subject of growing international concern, and the ITF are in the forefront of the campaign.  Although ITF agreements may only apply to probably 1/6th of all ships flying convenience flags, the Union feels they have effectively exposed a problem which they consider will escalate to irremediable proportions if allowed to remain un-remedied.