Trade unions in Iraq, including IndustriALL Global Union affiliates, are calling on the Iraqi parliament to reject a draft social security law, which would reduce social protection for thousands of people already suffering in the war-ravaged state.
The proposed legislation was approved by the Iraqi cabinet on 1 August and is now being rushed through parliament under pressure from the World Bank, which wants to see a reduction in government spending as a condition for millions in loans. The Iraqi government has ignored comments and objections to the draft social security law from trade unions and civil society groups.
Iraqi unions, under the umbrella of the Conference of Iraqi Federations and Workers Unions, are calling for a new social security law that will provide comprehensive social protection for all Iraqi people to promote social stability in times of crisis.
Thousands of Iraqi citizens have been displaced due to internal conflict and the recent decline in oil prices has deepened the economic crisis in the country, contributing to a rise in unemployment and precarious work. As a result, tens of thousands of families and workers are living in poverty.
"This draft is contrary to international standards and conventions and has been drawn up on the guidance of the World Bank in order to obtain loans. Such loans will cause Iraq to sink. The adoption of this draft will lead to increased poverty among Iraqis, even though they are living in one of the world's richest countries in oil wealth,” said Hashmeya Alsaadawe, President of the General Union of Electricity Workers and Technicians, and member of IndustriALL’s Executive Committee.
The dire economic situation in Iraq has increased the pressure on the relatively weak social security system, highlighting the need to expand its coverage rather than reduce it, say unions.
Unions oppose the draft social security law that would:
- Merge the pension and social security fund for workers with the national pension fund
- Increase workers’ contributions to social security and pension funds
- Increase the retirement age from 63 to 65
- Not address the needs of women who wish to retire early in special cases
- Deprive retired workers of privileges granted by law
- Not improve the mechanisms used to calculate pensions, end of service benefits and payment method for workers and employees.
The Conference called upon the Iraqi Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to urgently begin social dialogue with trade unions to discuss the proposed legislation.
In a letter to members of parliament in Iraq, IndustriALL Global Union’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
“IndustriALL urges the Iraqi parliament to return the draft to the government so it can be discussed with Iraqi trade unions and all relevant stakeholders in a proper consultation process. In addition, IndustriALL calls on the government to ensure that any new social security law meets international labour standards, particularly Convention No. 102 on Minimum Standards for Social Security and Recommendation No. 202 on National Floors for Social Protection.”