The committee included representatives of various government ministries and nobody from the trade unions themselves.
“The proposed elections exclude all union organizations with the exception of a single federation. This implies that all union elections undertaken by any other federation or unions will be illegal. The decree also only permits the private, mixed and cooperative sectors to organize unions, excluding the majority of the Iraqi workforce working in the vast public sector from exercising the right of freedom of association. The entire process is a flagrant violation of the fundamental rights of freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively,” the Solidarity Centre concluded.
The unions have tried to fight this by filing lawsuits against the Governing Council Decree No. 3 of 2004.
“The legitimacy of this [electoral] committee was challenged by Iraq’s highest court in 2006,” Hadi Ali Lafta, vice president of the GFIW, notes. “Despite that, the committee continues to exist.”
And during the first meeting of said committee in Basra, “there were attempts to bypass the organisation’s bylaws,” Hussein Fadel, head of the GFIW in Basra, says.
Several other Basra trade union organizations – including the Basra branch of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions and the Union of Engineering Professionals in Southern Electricity Sector – came out in support of the GFIW in Basra and a demonstration was held.
“We participated in the demonstrations in solidarity with the Federation and against the government conspiracy, which is being backed by a religious party,” Ali Abbas Khafeef, vice president of the Basra FWCUI, the second largest union federation in Iraq, says – Khafeef was referring to the Sadrist movement, a mainly Shiite Muslim group led by the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Minister of Labour, Nassar al-Rubayie, is a member of the Sadrist movement.