By Waheed Ghanim.
A fight between the major trade unions in Basra and that state’s authorities highlights the lack of real labour laws in Iraq. Saddam Hussein-era laws mean that here, the employer gets to elect the union representatives and ignore workers’ wishes.
The premises of the local federation of trade union organizations in Basra are located in a side street in the centre of the southern Iraqi city. A few meters away there’s a local fire station. And, as some local wits have been heard to say recently, it’s a good thing the fire engines are there. Because soon they may be needed to put out the raging fire caused by hostilities between the trade unionists and the state authorities.
According to their website the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW) “is the main national trade union centre in Iraq. It brings together workers, regardless of gender, age religion and ethnicity, in pursuit of commons aims of a free and democratic Iraq”.
The current scrap was sparked off in May this year when the executive of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers in Basra was dissolved. A new executive needed to be elected and Iraq’s Ministry of Labour set up a preparatory committee to organize the elections.
As four trade union organizations in Basra, including the GFIW, put it in a press release, this committee is made up of a group of individuals with “no trade union affiliations” who are “hatching a conspiracy” with the aim of holding “sham elections”.