Friday, August 26, 2005

Trade Unionizing Barriers in Iraq

From Unison, Britain's largest trade union: the Iraqi government looks to be brandishing its claws at Iraq's most progressive civil society member: its unions. The story's so short I reproduce in full below.
Iraqi trade unions under threat

(22/8/05) The new Iraqi government is attempting to control trade union activity by overturning an agreement that allowed them to operate without any undue interference or harassment from the state.

A new decree adopted by the Iraqi Council of Ministers stated that the government would be ‘taking control of all monies belonging to the trade unions to prevent them from dispensing any such monies.’

The decree also says that a new paper on how trade unions should function, operate and organise will be prepared.

In a letter to the foreign secretary Jack Straw, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said the decree represents a major attack on the ability of independent and democratic trade unions to organise.

He pointed out that under the former agreement trade union issues were the responsibility of the Labour and Social Rights Committee whereas now the responsibility has been transferred to a new committee which will include a number of government ministers, but not the employment and social affairs minister.

“I am concerned that this decree, and especially the measures relating to trade union financial assets, is an attempt to curb the growth of free trade unions in Iraq,” said Prentis.

“On behalf of UNISON I would request that you raise this matter with the Iraqi authorities at the first possible occasion.”
There's no doubt that Iraq's labor movement is the most progressive and secular civil society institution in Iraq. It's enemies -- the Islamists and the now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority -- are evidence enough. If the movement is strangled by the Shiite-dominated government before it has the ability to organize itself into a social movement, then where will Iraq's progressive ideas come from?

Something for the left and the liberals to think about.