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ITF condemns military coup; solidarity with Burmese seafarers

15 Feb 2021
Press Release

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) condemns in the strongest possible terms the attempted military takeover of Myanmar’s fragile democracy currently taking place. The voice of the world’s transport workers also confirms its unbroken commitment and support for Burmese affiliate union, IFOMS.

“What is taking place in Myanmar should anger every trade unionist across the globe. At the heart of unionism is democracy: the self determination of the people to speak up, stand together, and build a future of our choosing. The military thugs who are ransacking Myanmar’s democracy strike at the heart of our union values and freedoms and we must challenge them,” said ITF President Paddy Crumlin.

“The ITF is extremely concerned at reports of tanks on the streets, bullets being fired, and the abduction of student and union leaders and activists. Being a unionist is not a crime, it is a fundamental human right.”

“The world is watching very closely right now, and we would urge military personnel from the top to the bottom of the chain of command to consider whether anyone can escape justice for atrocities in the 21st century. Their regime will fall in time – and we will be waiting to see justice exacted on any perpetrators of crimes towards the people of Myanmar.”

“Protesting is a right. The ITF stands in solidarity with all workers in Myanmar who continue to take to the streets to demonstrate peacefully for democracy, despite the severe danger to them and their families. Your bravery is beyond compare,” said Crumlin.

The ITF will be working over the coming weeks to lobby governments in the region and globally to take swift actions against the coup’s leaders and enablers of the military junta.

“Every government should by this point have identified all the leverage they have over the complicit military leaders – offshore accounts, foreign reserves, investments, trade commitments. If there was ever a time to put a squeeze on the commercial interests of the Myanmar military to literally save the lives of thousands of innocent people: it is now,” said Crumlin.

The ITF is also staunch in its ongoing commitment to affiliate the Independent Federation of Myanmar Seafarers (IFOMS). The ITF and IFOMS support the certification of results from the 8 November 2020 election, and the immediate return to democratic, civilian government.

“Burmese seafarers are some of the hardest-working, most brave maritime workers in the world. They have helped power the shipping industry in every corner of the globe to keep shelves stocked, industries operating, and medicines distributed. It is now time for us to show an equal bravery and tireless commitment in standing with them to defend their democratic rights,” said Chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section David Heindel.

“The ITF family has a proud history of standing with Burmese seafarers and their independent union, IFOMS. These hardworking seafarers and the rest of the Burmese people deserve their democratic rights to be protected, including freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain.”

“Civil society leaders and activists in Myanmar, including the membership and leadership of IFOMS, must be free from harassment, persecution, abduction and unlawful pressure at the hands of the military. We will be closely monitoring the situation and their welfare. We stand firmly with IFOMS during this difficult and uncertain time.”

“ITF leadership globally calls on all affiliates, and particularly those in maritime industries to take a stand and add your voice to help stop this disgraceful destruction of democracy. We stand with IFOMS,” said Heindel.


  • For details on how you can support and stand with the people of Myanmar see the Global Unions’ Joint Statement calling on unions worldwide to ramp up pressure on governments and corporations to isolate Myanmar military junta.
  • Follow IFOMS on Facebook for the latest news from the union during the events


About the ITF: The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, affiliate-led federation recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives; connecting trade unions from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice for nearly 20 million working women and men in the transport industry across the world.

Media contact:           media[at]        +44 20 7940 9282

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