Defending Europe’s tug and towboat workers

Tugs are small vessels that guide larger ships into and out of harbour. Workers in this industry face specific challenges, distinct from other workers in Europe’s docks, shipping and inland waterways.

Global tug operators are playing hardball in the sector and their aggressive competition is pushing down working terms and conditions. Major shipping companies play a decisive role behind the scenes – they drive down prices by imposing large discounts to in-house tug operators, and thus endanger the economic sustainability of the entire tug industry and the jobs it creates.

Because of this situation, the ETF Tug Steering Committee was founded at the 2017 Barcelona Congress. The Tug Steering Committee operates under the coordination of the ETF Inland Waterways section. It will develop mutual cooperation amongst ETF affiliates that represent tug workers, and establish an ETF policy and strategy on tugs. The end goal is to develop impactful tools to protect and strengthen the workers in the tug sector.

The ETF Tug Steering Committee is composed of one member per European country in which tug workers are being represented and meets three times a year in a place where tug operations are in place. The ETF Tug network is the advisory body to the ETF Tug Steering Committee on all issues relating to the tug sector in Europe.  It meets once a year in a place where tug operations are in place.

At its first meeting the ETF Tug Steering Committee elected:

  • Jacques Kerkhof, BTB, Belgium – Chair
  • Richard Crease, Unite the Union, UK – Vice-Chair

More about Tugs

See All

Svitzer workers go on strike in The Netherlands for the 9th time!

Workers at the Dutch tug company continue their fight to get their overtime paid. Instead of working for free, they decided to do voluntary work in a different way: they got elderly people from a retirement home on board of boats and gave them a tour of the port!

20 Jun 2019

A tug worker sends an SOS call about social dumping

A tug captain from Antwerp has issued an SOS call, asking for action against social dumping in the sector. His story highlights a specific case of unfair competition in Belgium, but it is a story that will echo with tug captains across Europe. The ETF is building a network of tug captains, and we will stand with them in their struggle to defend decent pay and conditions in this vital profession.

Worker's Story
12 Jun 2019

Fair Tugging Campaign

ETF affiliates in Belgium, Italy, Spain and UK are flying the flag in support of our Fair Tugging Campaign!

19 Mar 2019