The IndustriALL Global Union national council of trade unions in Iraq is leading the campaign for unpaid Iraqi workers of state-owned companies.
Iraqi workers strongly suspect that the 71 state-owned enterprises that operate across the manufacturing supply-chain are intentionally not paying salaries as part of a strategy to facilitate mass privatization.
The government policy of converting the companies from ownership of the Ministry of Industry and Minerals into self-financing enterprises has meant that workers only get paid when the company makes a profit.
During the current tough economic situation in Iraq, many of the enterprises are not turning a profit and the workers are being made to pay with their unpaid wages.
Thousands of the affected workers have been holding mass demonstrations since the end of last year after going three months without pay.
The Iraqi Workers Coordination Committee, led by IndustriALL affiliates, has announced open-ended sit-in protests and struggle until the demands are met, and the deliberate neglect by the Ministry of Industry and Minerals ends.
IndustriALL is raising the demands of its national council to the Iraqi government. The demands include the following:
- Conversion of self-financed state companies to the central funding system
- Reconsidering the law regarding self-financing companies
- Formation of a joint committee from the Council of Ministers and Parliament to develop appropriate solutions to the obstacles faced by these companies
- Activation of resolution No. 88 of 2013 by the Council of Ministers, which obliges all state ministries to buy products from the Ministry of Industry and Minerals
- Implementation of customs tariff laws; protection of national industries; and consumer protection
With the support of IndustriALL affiliated Iraqi trade unions, workers have been organizing around the country to protest and demand their back pay and a long-term solution to the problem.
The wide demonstrations have moved the government to step in to ensure rolling payments of wages each month. This stopgap measure is designed to stop the protest, but there is no long-term plan to.
Despite the illegality of forming unions in Iraq’s public sector, new unions are being formed through the struggle.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan says:
We will never accept workers being used as pawns so that publically owned enterprise can be privatized. What a disgrace. These workers are showing great bravery in leading the fight-back, and IndustriALL stands with them.”