TUC protests about Iraqi labour law

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HE Mr Mahmood al-Shikh Radi
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs

Baghdad
IRAQ

Dear Minister

Iraqi labour law

You will recall that you met with the TUC member of the ILO Governing Body, Simon Steyne, during the International Labour Conference in Geneva, and both he and a representative of the Iraqi Government spoke in the Committee on the Application of Standards in the examination of the application in Iraq of Convention 98. I would welcome your response on a number of concerns which I know are shared by the Iraqi trade union movement.

Firstly, I would like you to confirm, as stated before the Committee on the Application of Standards, that your Government intends to adopt an ILO-compliant labour law and rescind Decree 150 and Decree 8750, and I would welcome seeing a timetable for that process.

Secondly, according to the conclusions of the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards, based on your representative's contribution, the Government of Iraq's position is that "despite the current absence of an appropriate legislative framework governing the right to organise, trade unions were able to carry out their activities without interference."

You must know that this is untrue. Unions in Iraq have had their bank accounts frozen since the adoption of Decree 8750 in 2005, three whole years ago. It is hard to see how freezing bank accounts does not constitute interference as defined by Article 2 of Convention 98, but I would welcome your explanation.

You must also know that the committee to oversee the elections which your Government has demanded take place has no union representative on it (contrary to what is said in the Committee's report where your representative is reported to have claimed that this body had been established by the trade union movement in Iraq). And the requirements that that body has placed on the candidates for election to that body - that they should be Iraqi citizens, and, especially, that they should have the support of their employer - are completely contrary to the views of the Iraqi trade union movement and also clearly flout ILO Conventions. Again, I cannot see how those requirements do not constitute interference but I would welcome any explanation you could give.

And you must certainly be aware that, contrary to the impression your representative gave to the Committee on the Application of Standards, Decree 150 which was introduced by Saddam Hussein is not only in force but it is being used actively by your Government to restrict trade union activity in the oil industry (where managers have been instructed by Ministers not to deal with the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions precisely because the union is prohibited by Decree 150) and to restrict the scope of the elections which you are requiring unions in the private sector alone to conduct, excluding public sector workers and their unions from taking part.

Thirdly, I note that the Committee on the Application of Standards concluded that the draft Labour Code should be modified in line with the views of the Committee of Experts and in full consultation with unions and employers, and "adopted without delay", and in the meantime, that Decree 150 should no longer be applied. I would welcome your commitment to do what the Committee on the Application of Standards has requested.

I am copying this letter to the Deputy Prime Minister so that he is aware of our concerns; to the ILO Director General and to Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Head of the Standards Department; and to the Iraqi trade union movement and the British Government.

Yours sincerely

BRENDAN BARBER

General Secretary

Briefing
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