Iraqi electricity sector unions shut down in Saddam-style move
Police raided and shut down trade unions in the electricity sector across Iraq yesterday, carrying out a Ministerial Order reminiscent of Saddam Hussein. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to Foreign Secretary William Hague asking him to urge his Iraqi counterparts to stop these draconian actions.
22 July 2010
Rt Hon William Hague MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Iraqi Ministry bans unions in electricity sector
Yesterday at midday police officers stormed the offices of the electricity workers' unions across Iraq carrying out an order from the Ministry of Electricity to shut them down. I ask you to urge the Iraqi Government to stop these draconian actions.
The Ministerial order, issued on 20 July 2010, 'prohibits all trade union activities at the Ministry and its departments and sites'. It orders the police, 'to close all trade union offices and bases and to take control of the union's assets, properties and documents, furniture and computers'. Finally, it instructs the Ministry to taking legal action against trade union officials under the Terrorism Act (2005). I am attaching an English translation of the order to this letter (copied below).
The order is in clear violation of international core labour standards. It is also a violation of the Iraqi constitution, and one of the most draconian acts by the Iraqi Government since the fall of Saddam. It comes from Hussain al-Shahristani, the Minister for Oil, who has recently taken over the electricity portfolio and has a worrying track record of using Saddam-era labour laws against trade unions.
This is just the latest in a series of recent attempts to undermine the Iraqi trade union movement: a key civil society player in building a democratic, peaceful and prosperous Iraq. The movement unites working people across religious, ethnic and geographical divides in their call for safe, productive and decent work. Unions across the globe, including the TUC, are working with their Iraqi colleagues to press the new Iraqi government to replace these repressive laws with fair and just ones that comply with the standards of the International Labour Organisation.
Hashmeya Muhsin, the leader of the Electricity Workers' Union is well know and admired globally as an inspiring campaigner for the rights of the vulnerable, and one of few women union leaders in the Arab world. For her efforts she faces great personal risk in Iraq. For the Government to effectively label her and the EWU as terrorists is an insulting and dangerous abuse of power.
I ask that you call on the Iraqi Government, as a matter of urgency, to withdraw the order, and allow unions to operate freely, underpinned by a fair, just and ILO-compliant labour law.
Attachment: Iraqi Ministry of Electricity - Ministerial Order No. 22 244, 20 July 2010
Order from the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity
(Please note: This is an English translation of the original Arabic Ministerial Order issue No 22 244. While all attempts have been made to ensure the accuracy of this translation, the original Arabic version is definitive and available at: http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/wordpress/?p=1509&lang=ar)
Issue: 22 244
Based on the approval of the respected Minister [of Electricity] and his acceptance of the recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General as indicated in letter, No. (1 / 1 / A / 30) on.19. July 2010.
The following is decided:
Prohibit all trade union activities at the ministry and its departments and sites; and to stop all forms of official [ministry and its departments and sites] interaction and communication with the trade unions that operate within the Ministry and its departments and sites.
The ministry of electricity and in coordination with the police is ordered to close all trade union offices and bases and to take control of unions' assets properties and documents, furniture and computers with proper listing of all the items seized.
The concerned directorates of the ministry must take immediate legal action against those who resort to the use or threat of violence aimed at damage to public properties under articles 2 and 4 of the Terrorism Act No 13 of the year 2005
The formation of central committees in all the ministry departments. Representatives from the Office of the Inspector General, the Administrative and the Legal Offices are instructed to sit in these committees for the purpose of determining the eligibility of privileges granted to trade union officials and withdraw these privileges. [The committees] are instructed to take administrative and legal procedures against violators.
The immediate implementation of this order as from the date of its issuance.
Mohamed L Hawass
On behalf of the Minister.
Issued: 22 July, 2010