n South African Journal of Labour Relations - Unions, training and development : a case study of African seafarers and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)

Volume 30, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



This article highlights the problems facing organised labour in highly globalised and poorly regulated industries and, through a case study of a union-initiated training programme in the shipping industry, seeks to shed further light on the role and potential of unions in promoting human resource development. More specifically, the authors investigate the relative success of the pilot scheme of the International Transport Workers' Federation in upgrading the skills of African seafarers in southern Africa. While the initiative did result in a number of African seafarers being able to upgrade their qualifications to international standards, a number of serious difficulties were encountered, stemming from the top-down nature of the scheme, a lack of internal democracy, and limited attention being accorded to labour market realities. It is concluded that although the current crisis of demand for African seafarers may be partially ameliorated by focused skills development initiatives, it can only be redressed by comprehensive policy interventions, involving the state, the international labour movement, regional unions and employers.

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