Union murders threaten Iraq's future

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date: 18 July 2006

embargo: 00:01hrs 19 July 2006

Peace, economic growth and jobs in Iraq are being jeopardised by a wave of murders of trade unionists and key workers, the TUC said today (Wednesday) as they launch a book on the history of Iraq unions.

'Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions', commemorates the International Secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (now the Iraqi Workers Federation - IWF) who last January was tortured and murdered in his home by assassins loyal to Saddam Hussein. Hadi Saleh had returned to Iraq from exile to begin rebuilding the trade union movement after the fall of Saddam, who had violently suppressed independent trade unions for over forty years.

Hadi's murder sparked a wave of assassinations of trade union leaders and members by terrorists who also target workers in key sectors, such as teachers, to prevent the social justice and stability unions are striving for (see list of recent murders below). Profits from the book will support Iraqi unions that are also facing attacks from the Iraqi Government which has refused to lift Saddam's ban on unions in the public sector and adopt international labour rights protections. And the TUC has led global protests against powers the Government introduced to take control of unions and freeze their assets.

Speaking at the launch of the book at the House of Commons today, co-author Abdullah Muhsin of the Iraqi Workers Federation said: 'Iraq's economy was pulverized by Saddam's wars, bled by sanctions and further devastated by the invasion, looting and rampant corruption. Iraq's economy needs emergency investment and widespread reconstruction. Free and independent unions will play an important role in making sure investment in Iraq provides quality jobs and decent public services.

'But unions are also important in forming Iraq's democratic future and national identity. Our independence makes us a home to all Iraqis irrespective of gender, ethnicity and religion. Unions are an antidote to the sectarian poisons of extremism in Iraq.'

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, who wrote the book's foreword, said:

'Hadi Saleh faced exile, persecution and death for bravely fighting to give people the choice to have a collective voice at work. I saw Hadi barely a month before he was murdered and his murder was a terrible shock.

'Trade unions members are being murdered in Iraq at an alarming rate by people who do not want to see a free, peaceful, fair and prosperous Iraq. And unions are being attacked by a Government that feels threatened by their independence from religion and ethnic groupings. The TUC will continue to support our sister unions in Iraq and put pressure on the UK Government to use their power to give Iraqi workers the free and independent unions they have been denied for so long.'

Ali Hassan Abd of the Oil and Gas Workers' Union was shot in front of his children in February 2005. Ahmed Adris Abas of the Transport and Communication Workers' Union was shot dead in Martyrs' Square in Baghdad. Talib Khadim, a leading IWF official was attacked and kidnapped, as was Saady Edan, the head of our Mosul branch. In May, Thabet Ali of the Health Sector Union was murdered in Baghdad. Last month alone, Shukry Al Shakhly, a founder member of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, was murdered in Baghdad, 85 workers were kidnapped from the Al Nasar complex and in Taji seven workers were executed. At least ten members of the Union of Mechanics, Printing and Metalworkers were killed. A few weeks ago a suicide bomber killed Hassen Nassar, a leader of the Agricultural and Foodstuff Workers' Union in Baghdad.

'Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions', by Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson, Labour Friends of Iraq and editor of www.democratiya.com

is available from www.tuc.org.uk/publications or 020 7467 1294, for £10 (bulk discounts). Profits will go to the TUC Aid for Iraq Appeal.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- 'Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions' will be launched on Wednesday 19 July at a Labour Friends of Iraq House of Commons reception addressed by the book's authors and Hadi Saleh's widow who will be available for media interviews through an interpreter (arrange through TUC press office).

- The TUC Aid for Iraq Appeal has so far raised £50,000 which has been spent on training Iraqi trade unionists to deal with issues like collective bargaining, union organisation and privatisation, including visits to the UK to meet with British trade unionists, and developing contacts with other trade union movements around the world. Union members are currently donating used mobile phones for use by the Iraqi trade union movement.

Contacts:

Media enquiries: Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248; M: 07778 158175; E: media@tuc.org.uk

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