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Iraqi workers need good laws now!

14 November, 2013For the past 10 years unions in Iraq have mobilized and campaigned for the government to pass a new labour and trade union law. Today, the 1987 Saddam Hussein-era laws remain in effect and are actively enforced. They prevent unions from carrying out normal union activity.

Despite the repression, Iraqi workers have managed to form their own unions and in recent years six Iraqi affiliates representing workers in our industries have joined IndustriALL Global Union. In an effort to coordinate and consolidate forces, these unions came together in Baghdad, July 10, 2013 and created a new IndustriALL Global Union National Council. This is an important step towards a united struggle for new trade union legislation. Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan was present at the founding meeting.

We strongly support our affiliates’ demands that the Iraqi government respects the rights to form and join unions in both the private and public sectors as well as the right to free assembly and demonstration. It is essential that a fair and just ILO-compliant labour and trade union law that respects workers’ rights is enacted as a matter of urgency.

In Iraq, roughly 80% of all industries are in the public sector. It is appalling that Saddam was brought down but his notorious Public Law 150 banning all trade union activity in the public sector, remains in force and Iraq is still without a legal framework for industrial relations that meets ILO standards. Iraqi Labour legislation, as presently enforced, denies unions and their members basic rights.

While in Iraq, Kemal Özkan also met with Mr Osama Al-Nujaifi, Speaker of Iraqi Parliament, Mr Nassar Al-Rubuiee, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, and Mr Kanna Yonadam, Chair of Labour and Social Affairs Committee at the Parliament, discussing the current legislation. IndustriALL made it clear that the new law must cover the public sector. Legislation should also make it easier to form a union by ensuring that requirements follow ILO norms and standards – trade unions must be allowed to determine and establish their own democratic structures, and the law must provide effective guarantees against interference in the trade union movement’s activities by government and employers.

“Our mission was very timely”, says IndustriALL’s Kemal Özkan:

If the trade union legislation is not adopted now, nobody knows when the next opportunity will be, and we cannot wait years and years for this.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said:

For 25 years, the vast majority of Iraqi workers have been deprived of the fundamental right to freedom of association. After repeated promises over the years to amend the trade union law, the Iraqi parliament finally appears poised to do so. However, most recent drafts reflect a failure of political will to address the major flaws of the Hussein-era legislation, including to extend the legal right to freedom of association to the vast public sector. This is unacceptable. We urge the parliament not to squander this opportunity to at last bring its laws into line with international standards.

With this is mind IndustriALL Global Union, in cooperation with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), is launching this campaign. Use the online petition linked to this article to write to the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social Affairs. Register your urgent support for a new labour law that respects workers’ fundamental rights.