Iraq unions crisis campaign update
Events in Iraq are still moving quickly, since the Labour Ministry issued a decree in April, derecognising the country’s independent trade unions (the General Federation of Iraqi Workers), and seizing control of their assets and upcoming union elections.
Cracks are now appearing in the Iraqi government’s position, and it’s becoming clearer that this has been a politically motivated move by the Sadrist Party faction of the ruling coalition (followers of the politically engaged Islamist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr). The Minister of Civil Society, a Kurdish Alliance appointee in the coalition, has taken the bold step of issuing a countermanding decree to delay the Minister of Labour’s plans for new union elections, and called for national scrutiny of the election process.
And following international pressure, the Minister of Labour has also had to back-track on his original plans to replace the Iraqi workers’ delegate to the International Labour Organisation with his own appointee, allowing the GFIW to nominate an independent candidate for the role again.
The GFIW have been campaigning since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein for a new labour law, compliant with ILO conventions and respecting the role of trade unions, but despite several false starts from the government, Saddam’s restrictive laws remain on the statute books. Interestingly, the Labour Ministry have this week been hinting they may now be investigating a revised labour law, possibly seeing this as a way out of the current stalemate.
There is room here for genuine movement for our hard-pressed Iraqi colleagues, and unions internationally need to keep up the pressure, directly on the Iraqi government as well as via the upcoming ILO Conference.