IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina delivered this message to the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN in Geneva today. It is the latest stage of on-going dialogue with the Iraqi authorities to ensure an urgent passing of ILO-compliant labour and trade union legislation in the country.
In the meeting at the Iraqi Embassy this morning, 9 December, constructive discussions were conducted to support the legislative process of new labour and trade union laws to replace the Saddam Hussein era repression of workers’ rights to organise.
General secretary Jyrki Raina explained to Ambassador Mohammad Ismail that IndustriALL Executive Committee member Hashmeya Muhsin al-Saadawi and other affiliate leaders are unable to freely organise workers or exercise their basic rights while an ILO-compliant labour law remains pending.
While Iraq’s Constitution sets out protections of workers’ right to organise into a trade union of their choosing, the Saddam era laws 150 and 151 have removed that legal protection since 1987. The IndustriALL Iraqi National Council has campaigned together with their national centres and others in a unified effort to repeal the draconian laws.
See the report on November discussions on the labour law in Iraq which included the ITUC and the US Solidarity Center, as well as IndustriALL and ITF here.
A clear bottom line for the unions is that such a trade union law must apply to workers and employees throughout what is classified in Iraq as the public sector (over 80% of the economy) and it must also recognise the present day reality of trade union pluralism.
IndustriALL today also urged the importance of ending legal attacks such as the continual ones on Hassan Juma’a and other union leaders. Presently, although Hassan has again been acquitted the vice president of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) appealed the fine levied against him that came to almost US$30,000 and succeeded in getting it dismissed only to have the Ministry appeal and ultimately succeed in re-imposing the draconian levy. He has now exhausted his administrative appeals and faces the possibility that the Ministry will demand a lump sum payment. Failure to pay could lead to loss of his job, seizure of his private property and even prison. Sixteen other workers face fines totaling more than US$600,000. Workers are being held personally responsible for the value of all lost production resulting from work stoppages. The Ambassador today denied that these charges were persecution for trade union activities but promised to investigate.
IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina told the Ambassador:
Iraq is described by many as the cradle of civilisation. It is time you took the high ground. Iraq could be a beacon of change in the Middle East & North Africa, and we would very much like to see that.
Ambassador Ismail told IndustriALL:
There is no doubt that Freedom of Association legislation will be enacted in Iraq. People in Iraq have the right to protect themselves. We are ready to cooperate with everybody. But there are many important decisions pending in the parliament. The process takes time, and the security situation is very serious.
IndustriALL and its six Iraqi affiliates will continue to publicise the present appalling situation and press for ILO-compliant legislation to be passed in this parliamentary period in Iraq.