Solidarity with Iraq’s trade unions
29 Jun 2014, By Owen Tudor
The TUC sends a message of solidarity to the brave independent trade unionists of Iraq facing the new threat presented by ISIS, on top of decades of repression by both Saddam Hussein and his successors. As one of the few non-sectarian institutions in Iraq, the trade union movement has much to lose from an upsurge in divisions between Sunni and Shi’ite Iraqis.
The ITUC has warned of the threat to migrant workers from India, Nepal and other countries, and the ‘toxic combination’ of an authoritarian government and religious extremism, Education International has expressed concern about:
“the rapidly deteriorating security situation and mounting sectarian violence, within Iraq and beyond its borders. The violence has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and has been marked by numerous human rights violations also affecting schools, children and teachers, particularly in the regions of Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit.”
TUC affiliate the NASUWT, which hosted Ahmed Jassam Salih, National President of the technical sector of the Iraqi Teachers’ Union (ITU) at its annual conference in April, has expressed fears about the impact of the spread of ISIS, which seems to see any autonomous organisation by workers as a threat.
But ISIS is not alone in that. The Iraqi government has for years refused to give up Saddam Hussein’s anti-trade union legislation, and several Iraqi political parties have tried to infiltrate unions or destabilise them for party political interests. Just days before ISIS entered Mosul in Northern Iraq, the ITU Vice-President in Mosul, Hussein Darwish, was assassinated on his way to work. He leaves behind six children. Family members of the previous ITU President, Ahmed Jassam Salih, were also assassinated recently.
Now, with ISIS threatening to return the areas it controls to the Middle Ages, we hear reports that the Iraqi government is withholding salaries from public servants, and conscripting them into militias to fight ISIS.
What the international trade union movement and the TUC demand is that disputes in Iraq should be settled by inclusive political dialogue rather than violence, that all sides should respect the independence and freedom of workers to form and work through the trade unions of their choice, and for the UN and the international community to work to restore peace and security for all, with special assistance to those displaced by the latest wave of violence.