Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Iraq's Progressive Labor Movement

The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) continues to show why they are an invaluable element of Iraq's nascent labor movement which is part of a broader, but weak, civil society movement. According to their website they have pressed the UN Support Team to ensure their progressive demands are included within the Constitution.

Their demands boil down to four areas:
1. Rights of Children: IFTU wishes to insist on the rights of Children aged younger than 16 years of age, not to be allowed to work and to have a full education. IFTU expressed its concern that the draft Constitution made general references to the rights of children without defining at what age these rights apply. In IFTU’s estimation this is a serious weakness, which would have the effect of undermining future attempts to improve the terrible situation for Iraqi children.

2. Right to Strike: IFTU expressed its strong dismay that an explicit Constitutional right of workers to take strike action has been removed from the draft version of the Constitution, although such a right exists in the current Transitional Administrative Law. The draft Constitution refers only to the right of workers to representation, without defining the right of workers to join or form the trade union representation of their choice, or as mentioned the right to withdraw their labour.

3. Rights of Women: IFTU made clear the complete opposition of the trade union to any attempt to revive the notorious Decree 137, which sought to remove the fundamental human rights of women in the name of imposing sharia law. Womens’ rights to marriage, divorce, to own property, inherit and pass on property to their children and others, to access education at all levels, to work and to play a full part in all aspects of civil society and political life must be guaranteed in the Constitution of a modern democratic, federal Iraq.

4. Separation of Politics and Religion: IFTU insists on the complete separation of the powers and authority of ‘the mosque’ from the constitutional state law. Freedom to practice religion must be guaranteed by the Constitution. The Constitution should not take Islam as its sole source of legitimacy.
Thank Allah for Iraq's labor movement, a much ignored group, which could have, and still could,help rebuild Iraq and remain the nucleus for a democratic and secular state. Whether or not they can influence the drafting of the Constitution to include these areas is extremely slim, but damn its heartening to know someone's fighting the good fight in Iraq.