According to US Labor Against the War, the revival of Iraq’s labour movement first marked by the protests on government workers’ pay in August 2008 is continuing.
Basra’s oil pipeline workers, who had been staging occupations of the facilities since April 27 to demand back pay, scored a victory in early May as the Baghdad administration agreed to meet with their leaders and negotiate a payment schedule. The administration capitulated after the workers threatened to shut down the pipeline and call a general strike. Union leader Faisal Hamdan told management the workers were prepared to immediately shut down all exports from Basra’s harbour.
Electricity workers in Nasiriyah have been holding daily public mobilisations demanding the status of “permanent employees” rather than “contractors”. Ahmad Salim of the Federation of Worker Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), says: “This demonstration is a pressure on the authorities, to oblige them to answer the workers’ demands.”
The recent international labour conference organised by Iraqi unions and held in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, called for international protests to support Iraqi workers’ demand for a democratic labour law - something promised by the Iraqi government, which nevertheless keeps Saddam-era laws on the books. Solidarity is also needed for the Iraqi Teachers’ Union, facing a government attempt to oust its elected leadership. Watch this space for protest plans.