Iraqi workers: "We are still fighting"

Submitted by Matthew on 10 June, 2010 - 3:16 Author: Falah Alwan, Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq

Following a recent strike at the Iraqi Harbour Corp. demanding higher wages, the administration have issued orders to transfer dockworker activists from their workplaces in Basra to Mosul, which is 1000km away. We’re building a campaign of protests against the transfer; we’ll back the workers if they refuse to comply with the orders.

On the issue of a labour law, the GFIW is doing some work and has met the Minister of Labour, but their demands only include the “official” unions, meaning themselves.

We’ve been campaigning on the issue since 2004. We want a labour law that recognises all unions in Iraq, including more independent initiatives like our own. We’ve had support from the AFL-CIO, who’ve called for all unions in Iraq to get involved with a campaign for a labour law.

We have our own opinion of the work of the GFIW; they’ve been mainly backed by the TUC, and they have their own agenda. They’re not just campaigning for a labour law, but to build a kind of respectable, “official” labour movement in Iraq. It’s unfortunate that the TUC has focused all their work on Iraq only on one federation.

We’ve been campaigning against lay-offs and job-losses; we organised a demonstration at the Ministry of Industry. A delegation from the Minister came to speak to the demonstration, and made a promise to put a halt to the job-losses. We’re also campaigning against the “self-financing” policies that are being introduced in many sectors, which are a form of privatisation.

Of course, we’ve been doing a lot of general work; organising in workplace, organising workshops for our members, producing our newspaper. One of the main challenges we currently face is the attempt by the “official” unions to position themselves as the only legal unions in Iraq and prevent us from continuing our work. Not having legal status is a serious challenge and holds us back from organising, particularly in the public sector.

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