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Iraq: building capacity for new labour law

21 December, 2015After a decade-long national and international campaign, the Iraqi parliament earlier this year adopted a new labour code. Unions in the country are now building their capacity to work in accordance with the new law.

The new code brings an important momentum to the trade union struggle in Iraq as it recognizes fundamental rights like the right to strike, collective bargaining, prohibition of child labour, discrimination and sexual harassment.

“IndustriALL Global Union’s support for our campaign for a new labour law was essential,” said Hashmeya Alsaadawe, president of the General Union of Electricity Workers and Technicians in Basra (GUEWT) and member of IndustriALL’s Executive Committee in her statement during the meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, earlier this month. “And now IndustriALL’s affiliates receive substantial solidarity through capacity building sessions.”

IndustriALL has held a series of capacity building workshops with affiliated unions in Iraq. At the latest one in Baghdad on 27-28 November, more than twenty participants from the oil, metal, energy, textile and other manufacturing sectors, discussed challenges and opportunities with collective bargaining, union structures and the new labour code. Special attention was paid to freedom of association, as there is a current campaign on the issue.

The workshop covered four main political themes: fundamental labour rights covered by the law; women’s rights; collective negotiations; and workers’ rights during holidays and leaves.

"The new labour law is a valuable contribution to the lives of the Iraqi people and a step forward towards a fairer Iraq. The long struggle of the Iraqi unions and the support from the international movement is a good example of what solidarity can achieve, not only for workers but also for a whole society," said Wesam Chaseb, programme manager at AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center in Iraq, who gave several presentations at the meeting.

Iraqi unions look forward to seeing the real improvements of the new labour code, contributing to improved working and living conditions for their members. The Iraqi labour movement is strongly urging the authorities to accelerate a trade union law recognizing union pluralism and which is applicable for all Iraqi workers, including in the public sector.

Our Iraqi affiliates are showing an incredible example of struggle to the whole world. Our global union family will continue to give its utmost support to these remarkable efforts,

said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.