A Brief History of the
PHILIPPINE SEAFARERS’ UNION-ITF
Registration Certificate No. 10252-(Fed)-LC
An affiliate of
International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), London, U.K.
THE Philippine Seafarers’ Union (PSU) was founded on 12 May 1984 in the busy and noisy port of Cebu City in Central Philippines. The labor leaders who forged an alliance with the licensed and unlicensed crew of a few vessels and dockworkers in order to form a union that would address separately the problems of seafarers were the following: Democrito T. Mendoza, President of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and National President of the ALU-TUCP; Cecilio T. Seno, National Executive Vice President of the ALU-TUCP, Commissioner of the NLRC and at present Commissioner of the SSS; Januario T. Seno, Cebu’s legal luminary and formerly member of the Batasang Pambansa; and Ernesto F. Herrera, General Secretary of the TUCP, a former senator of the Republic of the Philippines and a congressman in the House of Representatives or the Lower House of Philippine Congress.
The founding convention was held at the Ybarreta Hall of the ALU Bldg. There were about a hundred labor leaders, seamen and dockworkers who attended the convention.
Three months later, in August 1984, the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR) of the Department of Labor and Employment issued to the Philipinne Seafarers’ Union (PSU) Registration Certificate Number 10252 (FED)-LC.
|The Long Way to the ITF|
It did not take long for the PSU to gain more members from the ocean-going vessels. Five years after, in 1989, it registered more than 8,000 members and felt it was ready to join an international organization of seafarers, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) of London, U.K. After so many snags and hitches, PSU’s application for affiliation was finally accepted by the ITF in 1994.
|The Changing of the Guards|
The officer who used to directly manage and administer the union was the PSU General Secretary himself, Ernesto F. Herrera. When the TUCP started to demand most of Herrera’s time, and when he was appointed member of the fact-finding body tasked to investigate the assassination of the late Senator Benigno Aquino, the Executive Officials of the Union appointed lawyer Romeo S. Occena to manage the day-to-day affairs of the PSU. In July 1994, after reaching the age of 66, Occena retired from the PSU in accordance with the Union’s policy on retirement.
Ricardo I. Patalinjug, formerly the National Vice President for Operations of the land-based unions under the ALU-TUCP, was pulled out from his post and was appointed National Vice President for Operations of the PSU, taking over the position vacated by Occena.
German N. Pascua, Jr., formerly the Chief Legal Counsel of the PSU, was appointed National Vice President for Operations (NVPO) of the PSU effective April 1, 1998, taking over the position vacated by Ric Patalinjug upon the latter’s retirement from the union for medical reasons on March 31, 1998.
|Improved Services and Benefits|
The PSU has been improving the services and benefits it offers to members and their dependents. Thus, the PSU benefits and services now cover not only the old welfare aid program (death aid to members and their dependents) but also disability, hospitalization, family medical and dental benefits, savings and loans, training, upgrading, education and information program, legal assistance, retirement program, and spiritual services. PSU serves its members and their dependents in Manila and in the provinces through its network of regional offices.
After the acceptance of the affiliation of the PSU with the ITF, the union has successfully concluded and signed a bilateral agreement with All Japan Seamen’s Union (JSU), which covers Japanese flag and FOC vessels beneficially owned in Japan. The JSU officers headed by Bro. Akira Ohki came over to Manila in late 1994 to negotiate and signed the bilateral agreement.
In March 1995, the PSU successfully concluded also a bilateral agreement with the Norwegian unions covering NIS vessels. Officers from the Norwegian unions, e.g., the Norwegian Maritime Officers Association (NMOA), the Norwegian Seamen’s Union (NSU) and the Norwegian Union of Marine Engineers (NUME) negotiated and signed the bilateral agreement in Manila with the PSU officers.
Another bilateral agreement was concluded by the PSU with the Singapore Maritime Officers Union (SMOU) and the Singapore Organization of Seamen (SOS) in early 1996. In April 1997, a bilateral agreement was also signed between the PSU and the Union of International Seamen (UIS). Another bilateral agreement was signed in August 1998, this time between the PSU and the Dutch Seafarers Union (FWZ). In early 1999, another bilateral agreement was concluded by the PSU and the Hong Kong Unions.
In 1995, the ITF Fair Practices Committee (FPC) finally approved the full text of PSU’s TCC Agreement after more than one year of working it out with the ITF Secretariat. This was made possible with the cooperation of PSU friends in the international maritime industry (e.g., JSU, NUSI under Dr. Leo Barnes, and the Norwegian unions).
Through PSU’s active participation in international meetings and fora, some very positive developments came about: 1) PSU was accepted as full member of the Asian Seafarers Summit which is chaired by S. Nakanishi of the JSU; 2) PSU was accepted also as full member of the Norwegian/Asian Seafarers Committee (NASCO).
The major significance of the PSU’s membership in the two aforementioned organizations is that, for the first time, other affiliates of the ITF and the shipowners are now aware that there are two seafarers’ unions in the Philippines within the umbrella of the ITF which they can “consult” and “talk” to, the PSU and AMOSUP.
The PSU today is a growing federation of more than 30,000 overseas merchant seafarers on board ships trading worldwide. It is one of the industry unions under the Associated Labor Unions (ALU)-TUCP, the largest labor federation in the Philippines with members coming from the various industries, e.g., transport, banking, garments and textile,metal, food processing, building and woodworkers, agricultural, electronics, mining, chemicals, services, professional and technical employees,etc.
The PSU has offices nationwide through the network of offices of the ALU-TUCP which has more than 400 staff and personnel. Employed are specialists in industrial relations, education and information, administration, radio broadcasting, communications and labor research, lawyers, doctors, dentists, medical technologists and nurses to serve the members and their dependents.
The PSU bargains with the shipowners and their agents on behalf of its members. PSU’s collective bargaining agreements conform with the standards established by the International Transport Workers’ federation (ITF) and the International Labor Organisation (ILO), and recognized by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). Due to the union’s proven capability to protect its members, more and more seafarers are re-enlisting as PSU members every year.
The PSU is an affiliate of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), London, U.K. It was conferred the status “full ITF affiliate” effective 01 October 1994.
The PSU is also an affiliate of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU), the largest labor federation in the Philippines which has been active in the Philippine labor front since 1954. The ALU is one of the founding members of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP). The National President of the ALU is also the President of the TUCP.
The PSU is also an active affiliate of the Trade Union Congress of the Phlippines (TUCP), the national labor center, which counts more than one million members nationwide.
Through its affiliation with the TUCP, the PSU is assured of a voice in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the confederation of 174 affiliates from 124 countries representing more than 120 million workers worldwide.
The PSU National Office is located in Diliman, Quezon City. Its complex of offices provides for a well-rounded package of services to members and their dependents.
The PSU, being founded in Central Philippines in 1984, has existing big offices in Cebu City with facilities and amenities necessary in servicing its members and their dependents. PSU’s office in Cebu City is called Home Office, to differentiate it from its National Office in Diliman, Quezon City.
More Bilateral Agreements
After more than 20 years of active service onboard ocean-going merchant ships, the PSU has concluded more bilateral agreements with the following maritime unions operating worldwide:
- Bilateral Agreement with Union of International Seamen (UIS) of the United States of America (USA). This was signed on April 11, 1997.
- Bilateral Agreement with Officers’ Union of International Seamen (OUIS), also of USA. This was concluded on October 1, 2000.
- Memorandum of Cooperation with the National Chinese Seamen’s Union (NCSU). This was concluded on May 9, 2002.
- Memorandum of Cooperation with NUMAST-UK. This was signed on June 14, 2002.
- Memorandum of Cooperation with Maritime Union of India (MUI) and National Union of Seamen of India (NUSI). This was signed on April 23, 2004.