Harry Barnes MP and Gary Kent met Hangaw Khan and Sdeeq Hassan of the
Kurdistan Workers Syndicate Union (KWSU).
They explained that Erbil is the centre of their activities where they have an Executive Committee of 9 members and that there are 25 leading officials, with 5 drawn from each province in Iraqi Kurdistan. He said that 750 people had been openly elected and that there were 167 workplace committees for 6 individual unions covering Transport, Wood and Construction, Agriculture and Food, Mechanical, Printing and Metalworkers, Food and Leather Products and Public Services with more than 100,000 members.
Although Iraqi Kurdistan had been better able to develop its own institutions of civil society under the safe havens established in 1991, they were still subject to Iraqi laws including the 1987 ban on public sector union organisation. Another existing law demands loyalty to Saddam’s revolutionary command but this was a dead letter. The reason they worked under these laws is to illustrate that they see themselves a federal part of Iraq and want the new Parliament to
legislate for freedom of association.
The KWSU is independent and derives its revenues only from its members. It allows no government interference in its internal affairs but has good relations with the government and has had no obstruction from the Government in, for instance, the provision of visas for travel.
The union owns several buildings but they are in a state of great disrepair and they desperately need to renovate them. They would like printing machines so that they can also generate commercial revenues.
They want union buildings to act as cultural centres and also require computers, faxes, cameras and cars as well as training for union activists. They were particularly grateful to the Fire Brigades Union for its provision of equipment for firefighters.
As for relations with the IFTU, Hamgaw explained that “We are Iraqis. We will see what the constitution brings and will work according to it if it is good. We want a progressive labour code and a secular constitution. Our independent labour movement will be allied to the wider Iraqi labour movement with comradely relations in a federal arrangement.”