Iraqi workers standing up for their rights
Seven years after the fall of Saddam, Iraqi workers are long due their fundamental rights at work. Support them in their call on the government to put in place a fair and just labour law.
Nearly seven years have passed since the fall of the Saddam's regime, yet many of its laws continue to apply, making it impossible for Iraqi trade unions to organise and bargain on behalf of their members. Workers in the public sector can't join unions, the Government has frozen trade union assets, and key parts of Government have attempted to take over trade unions. These laws are undermining the immense contribution democratic and independent trade unions can make to Iraq's fledgling democracy.
While several versions of a new labour code have been drafted, political opposition and a gridlocked Parliament has seen them only gather dust.
In response workers and unions from across the country - from Basra to Iraqi Kurdistan - have come together to demand the government put in place a fair and just labour law. In the face of often tremendous personal risk, the campaign is also a pioneering effort in bridging religious, political, ethnic and geographic divides.
Since its launch in November last year the campaign has achieved significant early success. Some 85 members of Parliament have signed the campaign appeal, along with the then President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, the Oil Minister and many community organisations, businesses and other political leaders. The key parliamentary drafting committee has consulted with the campaign's coordinating group, the National Labour Campaign Committee NLCC, and MPs are petitioning for the legislation to be debated in Parliament.
But in an alarming and recent reminder as to why fair and just labour laws are needed, a government committee entrusted with overseeing trade union elections is attempted replace the legitimate leadership of the Iraqi Teacher's Union (ITU) with its own stooges. This is in clear violation of national court rulings, many parts of government, the Iraqi constitution and the ILO Convention on Freedom of Association.
With a new government currently being formed, Iraqi trade unions want to raise the profile of the campaign, to make it a top legislative priority - and that's where international solidarity is critical. As key campaigner Hashmeya Muhsin from the Electricity Workers Union in Basra recently said in an interview with the International Trade Union Confederation: 'international solidarity matters in such a campaign'. We need it to, '...pressure the Iraqi government to legislate a new, fair and just labour law'. The TUC, along with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has formally endorsed the campaign.
To show your support, sign the International Call for a Fair and Just Labour Law.
If your organisation wants to endorse the campaign, please email Abdullah Muhsin, the International Representative of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), one of the key national union centres in Iraq.
Issued: 25 March, 2010