The “First International Labour Conference in Iraq”, called by a range of Iraqi trade-union organisations for February 2009 in Erbil (in Kurdish northern Iraq), has won support from Australian and US union organisations.
The Teachers’ Federation, the Fire Brigades Union, and the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union in New South Wales have all agreed to donate to the cost of the conference and to consider the possibility of sending delegates. Australia-Asia Worker Links, an influential and active union-sponsored body based in Melbourne, has also agreed to back the conference. Worklife, the union-rights group in Brisbane, has agreed to publicise it.
Apheda, the international arm of the ACTU (Australian equivalent of the TUC), has written a letter to all Australian unions saying:
“Unions, though still in the main illegal in Iraq, are one of the only hopes that the different political, ethnic, and religious groups can come together peaceful to democratically exercise national self-determination...
“The AusIraq group [an activist group in Sydney initiated by members of Workers’ Liberty Australia] has been raising funds for the three larger [union] federations in Iraq... You may have recently met with Kathy Black from the US Labor Against the War organisation [when she toured Australia]... USLAW are among groups in many countries raising funds for a First International Labour Solidarity Conference in Iraq”.
The call for the conference states that unions in Iraq can be bulwarks for the peoples of Iraq against both the US occupation and the “sectarian gangs”. “We believe that the workers of Iraq can form a strong front for social justice and peace if supported by our brothers and sisters in the region and around the world”.
It is signed by Hassan Juma’a, president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions; Subhi Albadri, president of the General Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq; and by leaders from dockworker, engineering, service employee, rail, construction, teacher, and electricity worker unions.
The conference is scheduled to take place in Erbil, in the northern part of Iraq, where conditions are relatively safe and there is no serious sectarian violence; regular scheduled flights are available to Erbil from Dubai.