Behind all the press and TV reports of new governments and constitutions, and bloodshed by both US/UK troops and Al Qaeda types, there is another story in Iraq.
It is that of the new Iraqi labour movement, re-establishing itself in difficult circumstances. Iraqi workers have set up trade unions, evicted old Ba'thist bosses and new American contractors, won pay raises, campaigned to save jobs, demanded jobs or benefits for the unemployed, and resisted privatisation.
On this diverse and lively Iraqi labour movement depend all hopes of winning a free, democratic, and secular Iraq.
Iraq Union Solidarity is a grassroots network of trade unionists and activists set up to support, fundraise and co-ordinate efforts to support the Iraqi trade union movement.
IUS works in line with TUC policy passed at the 2004 Congress. Our group was formally launched by a caucus meeting at the TUC’s Iraq solidarity conference in February 2004. The initiative was explicitly welcomed from the conference platform.
We work to spread information, to assist links at every level between the British and Iraqi labour movements, to help arrange speakers and meetings, and to raise money for union organisations in Iraq.
Some activists in Britain have refused to support the Iraqi trade union movement because of the links of one of the main union groupings in Iraq, the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), with the Communist Party of Iraq, and the CP’s participation in the Interim Governing Council in 2003-4 and support for the Interim Government and Transitional Government in 2004-5.
Like US Labor Against the War, which is currently organising a tour of US cities with speakers from three different Iraqi union centres — IFTU, the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions of Iraq, and the General Union of Oil Employees — our policy is one of solidarity with all genuine trade union organisations in Iraq, as trade unions, whatever our disagreements with their policies.
It is the same principle that leads socialists and trade unionists here in Britain to support unions like Unison or Amicus against employers and the Government, regardless of what we think of those unions’ leaders. And for Iraq the principle is even more important, since all the unions face difficulties even in gaining the most basic rights to operate.
Activists from both IFTU and FWCUI have been murdered or threatened by the Islamist “resistance”. The occupation and the successive US-sponsored Iraqi governments have kept Saddam’s old labour laws — which ban union organisation in the public sector - on the books. They always promise at some point to grant a new labour law. But plainly that is not as urgent for them as issuing decrees which allow privatisation!
We welcome unity between Iraqi union organisations but our solidarity is unconditional.
IUS invites trade union branches and other organisations to affiliate. The affiliation fee is only £5 for a year, just to cover the costs of our meetings and mailings. (Cheques payable to "Iraq Union Solidarity", please).
IUS can also provide speakers for labour movement meetings, either on IUS's work generally, or on a more specific question related to the new Iraqi labour movement and its struggles.