In the history of Philippine trade unionism, no other union has posted a phenomenal a growth as the UFS. In only 13 years, UFS has grown by leaps and bounds with its influence encompassing nearly all ports worldwide and its membership now reaching 35,000 seafarers.
The growth of UFS over the years is peppered with numerous lessons every seafarer could learn from. It has its own share of victories as well as setbacks. But in its relatively young history, UFS can lay claim to being the most dynamic, most responsive and most member-interactive union in the Philippines, second to none in its advocacy of issues where the welfare of Filipino seafarers, be they belong to its fold or not, are concerned.
UFS was literally born under the trees of Luneta Park and hatched in an empty cartoon box, where the early documents and other files of the union were kept.
Its birth was as symbolic as the sacrifice of Dr. Jose Rizal, who was executed for his relentless fight to liberate his countrymen from the clutches of colonial Spain. The men who gave birth to the UFS shared the national hero’s vision and translated it into a mission of helping Filipino seafarers improve their lives.
Armed with nothing but courage and driven only by their dedication to that mission, these men – Engr, Nelson P. Ramirez and five other marine officers and seafarers’ rights advocates – met on December 12, 1994, to formally organize UFS into a union. In less than a month, on January 9, 1995, UFS was accredited by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as a maritime union authorized under the laws of the Philippines to represent seafarers and enter into collective bargaining agreements with shipping companies, their agents or authorized representatives.
For UFS, the recognition by DOLE was only the first step to reaching its collective goal. If the union is to survive and sustain, its commitment to the seafarer, it must broaden and strengthen its ranks.
In the throes of new challenges to the seafaring profession, the rounders “declared” Luneta Park their first office. It was where they began the arduous task of building UFS. From a handful of Luneta Park regulars, who believed in their cause, the union drew its initial membership. It steadily grew as the intensity by which its founders incessantly underscored the need to collectively address the problems besetting the profession and the challenges imposed by new regulations seared into the hearts and minds of those who listened to their collective sounding call.
As the voice of the founders reverberated in the four corners of Luneta Park, the numbers of those who listened increased. Eventually, those who listened became believers. And those who believed joined UFS
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