HAROLD Lewis, a former general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, has died.

Dr Lewis began working with the ITF in 1955 as an editor and translator. He then served as assistant general secretary from 1967 until 1977, and then as general secretary from 1977 until 1993.

David Cockcroft, Dr Lewis’s successor as general secretary (1993-2014), said key trade union leaders from all over the world knew and respected Dr Lewis.

“Harold was determined to see all ITF affiliates treated the same, wherever they came from,” Mr Cockcroft said.

“The people who owe the greatest debt to the work he did throughout his ITF career are the rank-and-file transport workers who were always his first priority.”

In a tribute, the Maritime Union of Australia said Dr Lewis had steered the ITF and its affiliate unions through a stormy period in the trade union movement.

“Harold built ITF union solidarity beyond Europe and the US,” ITF president Paddy Crumlin said.

“The strength of the ITF’s regional structures and influence globally owe an immense debt to him.

“He was passionate in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and perhaps his greatest legacy will be his role in co-ordinating dockworker unions, including my union the Maritime Union of Australia, as they led the way in enforcing sanctions by refusing to unload South African ships.”

Mr Crumlin said Dr Lewis’s “progressiveness and political and industrial maturity” forged campaigning and organising initiatives at the ITF that continue to advance the rights of transport workers around the world.

“His commitment to the ITF was maintained in his retirement including continuing to serve as a trustee to the ITF pension fund,” he said.

Following his retirement, Dr Lewis maintained his interest in the ITF and earned his PhD from Warwick University in 2003 for work documenting the history of the union.

“Even after his retirement, Harold worked in the interest of transport workers,” current ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said.

“His documentation of the ITF’s history and the struggles of transport workers and their unions will be an important reference for generations in our movement.

“There is no doubt that Harold had an enormous influence on the development of the ITF during his tenure.

“He was famous for cycling to work in all weathers and that kind of fortitude and determination characterised his period at the ITF and has left its legacy ever since.”