The International Transport Workers' Federation was founded in 1896 as the International Federation of Ship, Dock and River Workers, adopting its current name in 1898 when it expanded to include transport workers in non-maritime industries. The organisation had its roots in various special conferences and federations of European seamen and railwaymen in the early 1890s, and in the international co-operation of European transport unionists during the 1896-7 dock strikes in Rotterdam and Hamburg. Its initial foundation was in London, in the hands of J. Havelock Wilson of the NSFU, in association with Ben Tillett and Tom Mann, the leaders of the 1889 London dock strike, and also Charles Lindley, the Swedish seamen's unionist, who was to serve the International Transport Workers' Federation for over 50 years.
In 1904, financial problems caused the International Transport Workers' Federation to move to Germany under the secretaryship of the German railwaymen's leader, Hermann Jochade, who rapidly placed the organisation on a more stable administrative and financial footing. The First World War broke down associations between trade unionists and in 1915 the Federation virtually ceased to exist when Jochade was conscripted.
Fortunately for the future of the International Transport Workers' Federation, Jochade had established a liaison office in the neutral Netherlands in 1914, supervised by the Dutch Transport Federation (NVV); it was from this base that the international International Transport Workers' Federation was re-established in 1919, with an Amsterdam office, under the secretaryship of Edo Fimmen, joint secretary of the International Federation of Trade Unions and the Dutch trade union federation. Membership again flourished under Fimmen's dynamic leadership and major international campaigns, most notably against fascism, marked this period in the International Transport Workers' Federation's history.
By 1939, the imminent outbreak of war caused the International Transport Workers' Federation to move to England, initially to a temporary war-time home in Bedford and later to London. The International Transport Workers' Federation has continued to flourish since the end of the Second World War from its base in London and engages in world-wide campaigns on a range of issues. The ITF is currently a Federation of 570 transport trade unions in 132 countries, representing around 5 million workers. It is now organised in eight industrial sections: seafaring, docks, railways, road transport, civil aviation, inland navigation, fisheries and tourism services. It represents transport workers at world level and promotes their interests through global campaigning and solidarity.
Reference: Nicholas Baldwin, The International Transport Workers' Federation archive (University of Warwick Library, Coventry, 1985); Solidarity: The first 100 years of the International Transport Workers' Federation (Pluto Press, London, 1996); B. Reinalda, The International Transportworkers' Federation, 1914-1945: the Edo Fimmen era (Amsterdam, 1997).