Iraqi unions need a fair labour code, not flawed elections says TUC

The TUC is also campaigning for union rights in Iraq.
The Iraqi Government is demanding that trade unions hold elections under a deeply flawed Saddam-era law. TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, today wrote to Foreign Secretary David Miliband asking him to press the Government of Iraqi to drop this demand and instead put in place an ILO-compliant labour code that allows all workers the right to form, join – and have a say in the running of – trade unions.
19 October 2009
Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State
Dear David,
Iraqi trade union elections will breach ILO Conventions
The TUC has just learned that the Iraqi Government is again attempting to force trade unions in Iraq to hold elections under a deeply flawed 1987 Saddam-era law. Can you press the Iraqi government to instead implement an ILO-compliant labour code that allows all workers the right to form, join – and have a say in the running of – trade unions?
The current rules create enormous problems. Firstly, public sector workers are not officially allowed to join trade unions. Secondly, only one federation, the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), is formally recognised. Finally, the authorities in Iraq continue to use a controversial decree (Order 8750 of 2005) which froze all trade union assets and financial accounts, making it almost impossible for unions to function effectively.
Holding elections in this environment is not only in breach of core ILO Conventions. It will sew divisions in the Iraqi trade union movement, and very possibly, invite significant political interference in the process. Ultimately, it will prevent trade unions from fulfilling the essential contribution they have to building a peaceful and prosperous Iraq.
The Iraqi trade union movement is about to launch a national campaign calling on their government and parliament to implement a fair and just labour code that gives all workers – public and private sector – the chance to join trade unions and have a say in how they are run. Holding elections once this fair law is in place makes much more sense.
Can you use all avenues to press the Government of Iraq to drop its demand for flawed elections and instead put in place the ILO-complaint labour law called for?
Yours sincerely
BRENDAN BARBER
General Secretary

Defence of Iraqi union rights raised in Parliament

Dave Anderson: It is now four years since the Iraqi Government took control of the assets of the Iraqi trade union movement. In the past week, they have seized even more control of the levers of power in the unions. Will the Secretary of State meet me and Iraqi trade unions to see whether we can find a way forward to give these people real support in a situation that should not be happening?
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Ivan Lewis): We believe in not only the rights of trade unions in this country, but in the rights of trade unions in Iraq. At the heart of the Iraqi constitution is the right to organise in a free trade union, and I would certainly enter into discussions with my hon. Friend about how we make this a reality. When I visit Iraq at some stage over the next few months, I shall raise the point directly with the Iraqi Government.

Stop government interference in the unions

Please support this LabourStart campaign
The Higher Ministerial Committee overseeing the implementation of a Governing Council decision announced recently that nominations are open to establish a national preparatory committee to organize and supervise the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW) leadership election across the country. But this government action was done without any prior knowledge or consultation with the GFIW. The union’s Executive Committee says that this move violates Iraqi labour laws as well as International Labour Organization conventions, and is calling for broad international support of their defense of the union’s independence.

Commons motion on the importance of Iraqi Agriculture

LFIQ Joint President Dave Anderson has tabled the following motion in the Commons.
That this House warmly welcomes the participation of the Kurdistan Regional Government and its Prime Ministers Advisor on Sustainable Development and Agriculture, Dr Anwar Abdullah at the World Fruit and Vegetable Expo in London on 21 and 22 October 2009; believes that this will be a good opportunity to showcase Kurdistan’s agricultural potential, including fruit of unique tastes and quality such as apples, grapes, pomegranates, figs, and tomatoes, as well as first-class honey; notes that the region is part of the historic fount of world agriculture; and expresses its hope that, with British and other trade and investment, the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq will be able to rebuild, after decades of deliberate destruction and neglect, their full agricultural potential.

A statement issued by the General Federation of Iraqi Workers.

On the recent call by the Iraqi government to form a new preparatory committee for the election of the GFIW leadership.
The Higher Ministerial Committee overseeing the implementation of Governing Councils decision No.(3) for the year 2004 officially announced recently that nominations are open to establish a national preparatory committee with responsibility to organize and supervise the GFIW leadership election across Iraq.
This government action was done without any prior knowledge or consultation with GFIW despite the government claim that it is organizing this (election) in line with current labour law[ Law 52 of 1987] and the internal rules of the GFIW [GFTU Rules].
The Executive Committee of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers states that the current move by the High Ministerial Committee completely violates Labour Law number (52) of 1987 and the internal rules of the GFIW [GFTU].
The High Ministerial Committee overseeing the implementation of Governing Council’s decision No. (3) for the year 2004, should have implemented what it had issued before ( reference to the letter of the Ministry of State for Civil Society No c s / 106 On 13 September, which lead to the formation of a national preparatory committee on 2/2008 set up with the task of preparing and supervising workers election. A date for election was set on 22 June 2008 and then on 1 March 2009 but all this was cancelled without any justification by an order ( No 86 on 1March 2009) issued by the Minister of Civil Society.
The GFIW stressed repeatedly that workers have the right to form and join union is and it believes that this is a legitimate democratic practice endorsed by international Labour organization (ILO) standards and guaranteed by article 22 of by the permanent Iraqi constitution.
Convention No. 87 of 1948 of the ILO and Convention No. 8 of 1977, of the Arab labour organization obliges Member States to provide workers with freedom to form trade unions and compel states not to interfere in internal affairs of the unions.
The main aim of organizing workers into trade union is to strengthen industrial relations and improve social and cultural conditions for workers so that they can help in the reconstruction of Iraq.
The GFIW/IFTU while rejecting the current government interference in its internal affairs, Is calling on Iraqi workers to stand up to defend their legitimate rights and is appealing to the wider trade union movement, professional associations and civil society organizations, political parties and members of the Iraqi parliament for support and assistance and for the solidarity support of the international trade union movement in order to put an stop to all government interference
GFIW Executive
October 2009

Iraqi CP Condemns Criminal Bombings in Baghdad

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of Iraqi Communist Party has issued a statement (19th August 2009) strongly condemning the criminal bombings and mortar attacks in Baghdad today that killed in cold blood dozens and wounded hundreds of innocent people.
The statement said that murderers, who carried out these horrific crimes, are the enemies of the people, democracy and the ongoing political process.
“The remnants of the Baath, al-Qaida, militias and organized crime groups are responsible for these atrocities that have escalated recently.”
It called upon the government, and the military and security forces, to intensify efforts to protect the citizens, as it is their first duty, and to punish the criminals.
“The political forces and parties must abandon political jockeying and unprincipled polarization, which these criminals are exploiting to implement their sinister designs. The citizens are also required to cooperate fully with the relevant bodies and report early on the criminals.”
The statement concluded by strongly condemning the heinous crimes and calling for the pursuit of the criminals and bringing them to justice.

The work of Culture for All in Iraq

See this report of the valuable work of Culture for All in Iraq.
Culture for All distributes non-food packages to over 12,000 internally displaced and extremely vulnerable individuals in Baghdad.
27 July 2009
Culture for All (CfA) completed a large non-food distribution initiative to support 2,000 severely impoverished families living in Sadr City, al Baweya, al Rashad and hay al Nasir neighborhoods in Baghdad.
Supporting 12,000 internally displaced and extremely vulnerable individuals across the 2,000 families targeted, CfA spent several weeks preparing and organizing the distribution program at three primary and secondary schools – Khawarnak primary school in Sadr City, al Fada’il secondary school in al Rashad and al Istiqlal primary school in al Baweya.
Distribution packages included health and hygiene items, household utensils, mats, toiletries, kitchenware and water purification units. Some 80% of recipients were made up of both women and children.
At the distribution sites, CfA utilized the support of a large number of volunteers, tribal and community leaders, ensuring that only extremely vulnerable families were targeted.
Beneficiaries were extremely thankful for the non-food items, informing CfA staff and volunteers that this had been the first major humanitarian distribution program for a number of years. Beneficiaries reminded staff that CfA had built community trust across a large number of stakeholders.
The initiative was covered by Iraq’s main newspaper, al Sabah and by several TV stations – see attached article in al Sabah newspaper dated 21st July 2009.
Other CfA projects in Iraq include:
-Ongoing support to over 10,000 Baghdad residents through a Citizens Advice Network – 5 citizens advice centers providing case-work and legal advice, vocational training, including back-to-school, health and rights-based lectures and seminars, computer training, first-aid training, adult literacy, a monthly newsletter publication, outreach support and sewing workshops.
CfA Citizens Advice Centers are located in Sadr City (Fallah Street), Naariya and Gayara (Baghdad Jadida, 9 Nissan district), al Zaafarniya, Abu Dsheer (al Dora district) and al Rusafa (Kifah street) in central Baghdad.
CfA is currently working with over 30 primary and secondary schools in Baghdad as part of the Citizens Advice Network and other programs.
-Publication of a monthly civil society magazine, al Sual (The Question).
-Teacher training – building the capacity of 100 Sadr City based teachers in classroom best practices and modern teaching methodologies – completed in May 2009.
-Completion of a conference and workshop on the topic of building partnerships between citizens and local district councils – completed in May 2009 (attended by over 300 delegates and participants)
-Female Adult literacy classes to 2,000 women in Sadr City and 9 Nissan districts.
Culture for All team
Baghdad, Iraq