The Solidarity Center supports all Iraqi trade unions in their efforts to establish their human rights as workers, in law and in practice.
|Iraqi union leader Hadi Saleh (left), exchanges views with then Solidarity Center Executive Director Harry Kamberis during a 2004 ICFTU mission in Baghdad. Hadi Saleh was murdered in 2005. Read his obituary in the Guardian here.
More than seven years since Saddam Hussein's regime ended in 2003, there is still no permanent labor law protecting workers or governing the industrial relations system in Iraq. Although the Iraqi Ministry of Labor drafted a new law in 2004, in coordination with the International Labor Organization (ILO), this draft has yet to be adopted— leaving the repressive 1987 labor code the de facto law of the land. Workers in the public sector—representing the majority of the formal economy Iraqi workforce, particularly in the port and oil sectors— have been banned from organizing. The Iraqi government continues to directly interfere in union elections, even trying to control the outcomes.
The legal ambiguity at the national level facilitates harsh anti-union practices in the workplace. Union activists have been threatened, deemed “troublemakers,” and transferred to jobs far from their homes and families. Union offices have been raided, and materials confiscated. In the past several years, union leaders and activists have been kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. There have been wide reports of the abuse of foreign workers in Iraq, including allegations of human trafficking.
Despite this horrifying environment, Iraqis are organizing. Trade unions in Kurdish northern Iraq have been able to operate essentially freely since the 1991 Gulf War, a side effect of the U.S. and UK Coalition forces enforcement of a no-fly zone in the area. And since 2003, multiple national trade union centers and dozens of sector affiliates have emerged across the rest of Iraq, building upon the nation's long history of trade unionism. Members of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) made international headlines when they exercised their legitimate right to strike in 2007, protesting low wages, poor health and safety standards, the use of temporary workers, and the future path of Iraq's oil industry.
|Iraqi union organizers at the Solidarity Center's training facility in Jordan.
Iraqi unions have successfully reached out to the international community, registering formal complaints to the International Labor Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation and receiving statements of support from the AFL-CIO
and from the global labor movement
. Outreach is not easy—union activists have been interrogated about their relationships with regional and international unions and have been denied visas to the United States
to participate in union training activities.
The brave activism and perseverance of Iraqi trade union men and women deserves recognition. For the first time in decades, an independent trade union movement is growing in Iraq. The Solidarity Center, along with Global Union Federations, the ILO, and the ITUC, supports this democratic movement. Unions are among the most active civil society organizations, advocating legal reform, worker rights, social inclusion, and independently operating institutions.
Read the Iraq Trade Union Rights Bulletin
Stop Harassing Oil Workers, Iraqi Unions Tell Government. May 11, 2012—Iraqi unions are strongly protesting the government’s continued, systematic harassment and punishment of union workers in the oil industry who are engaging in actions protected by international labor standards and conventions, and they are calling for a new labor law that ensures worker rights for all Iraqis.
Statement by the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, Baghdad, March 5, 2011.
Iraq: Nine Years after Ouster of Saddam Hussein, Workers Still Toil under His Labor Law. April 20, 2012—Nine years since U.S. troops entered Iraq to oust the regime of Saddam Hussein, work and life in Iraq are—to paraphrase Thomas Hobbes—nasty, brutish, and hard.
Act Now: Iraqi Union Leader Forcibly Relocated. May 31, 2011—The Northern Oil Company of Iraq has forcibly relocated the president of the Kirkuk Oil and Gas Workers Union, Jamal Abdul-Jabbar, to a remote location. Abdul-Jabbar recently led a major walkout in support of better rights for contract workers and a safer workplace. Forced relocation is a common union-busting tactic of oil sector employers in Iraq. Join the LabourStart campaign!
Letters of Solidarity from Iraqi Unions to U.S. Public Employee Union Members. See what workers around the world are doing to support their union brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.
The government's failure to issue an internationally compliant labor law, address the lack of delivery of basic services, and tackle head-on the widespread financial and administrative corruption has worsened the situation in Iraq and widened the gap between those who have (minority) and those who have not (majority) to an alarming level, says the GFIW Also in Arabic
Iraqi Minister Closes All Electricity Union Offices.
Acting on a July 20 order from the Minister of Electricity, police raided and shut down electricity unions across Iraq. This is the latest attack on Iraqi workers by a government using Saddam-era labor law to crush the labor movement. The order prohibits all trade union activities at the ministry and authorizes the police to take control of unions' assets, properties and documents, furniture, and computers. Most chillingly, it empowers police to arrest any trade unionist who tries to protest.
Union Leaders Taken to Court for Oil Sector Dissent.
In the latest salvo of an ongoing battle over worker rights in Iraq’s oil sector, the state-run South Oil Company has brought charges against two of Iraq’s most prominent oil union leaders. By Carmen Gentile, Iraq Oil Report
, July 2, 2010
U.S. Unionists Demand End of Saddam-Era Labor Law in Iraq.
Some 75 marchers from the Solidarity Center, the Metropolitan Washington Council, and several unions marched outside the Iraqi consulate in Washington, DC, to protest the government's repression of Iraqi oil workers and call for a new labor law in iraq. Cross-posted from the AFL-CIO Now blog
Iraqi Workers Need Your Help.
Iraqi workers across the country have faced harassment, threats and even criminal charges for forming unions despite their hopes for democracy. The Solidarity Center requests your support for Iraqi union leaders in their struggle for bargaining and other workplace rights.
Solidarity Center Decries Anti-Union Moves in an Iraqi Refinery. Despite the fact that they are officially banned from forming unions by law, thousands of Iraqi oil workers are barvely coming together to fight for their rights at work.
Spotlight interview with Hashmeya Musshin al-Saadawi (Iraq-GFIW). Read an interview with Iraqi Labor leader Hasmeya Musshin al-Saadawi, who calls for international union solidarity in support of Iraq's National Labour Campaign.
AFL-CIO protests "illegal" charge against Iraqi oil union local president (5/28/2009). Read letter from President John Sweeney in English and Arabic.
Iraqi Women Unionists Join Their Turkish Sisters for Historical International Women’s Day. For the first time ever, Iraqi women unionists visited Turkey to celebrate International Women’s day with their Turkish sisters.
Solidarity Center Condemns Attacks on Peaceful Protests. Solidarity Center writes to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, condemning the attacks on August 24, 2008, against Iraqi workers peacefully protesting a proposed salary reduction.
Lack of Visas Forces Iraqi Union Women Activists to Cancel US Visit. In 2008, six Iraqi union and women’s rights activists were forced to cancel a long-planned visit hosted by the Solidarity Center, when the U.S. government failed to grant them visas to participate in a groundbreaking exchange program. View a Slideshow of Labor Activism in Iraq
Courageous Iraqi Women Build Their Unions. Hana’, an Iraqi oil worker from the southern port of Basra, is one of 14 Iraqi union activists who participated in a Solidarity Center leadership training in December 2007.
Global Solidarity for Striking Iraqi Oil Workers Builds. U.S. and global unions continue to support the striking workers of the IFOU, and condemn the Iraqi government’s threats to their safety and security.
U.S. Unions Rally to Support Iraqi Worker Rights, Protest Oil Law. In response to a global solidarity request from Iraqi unions, members of over a dozen U.S. unions marched in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, DC, on August 16, 2007.
Violence against Iraqi Unionists Escalates. More and more Iraqi workers and unions are becoming victims of attacks. In early 2007, at least three Iraqi union leaders have been killed, and scores more injured.
Solidarity Center Joins International Labor Delegation Fact-Finding Mission. This February 2004 visit helped to initiate relationships with newly formed Iraqi trade unions and a working partnership with a broad-based international labor network.
Worker and Human Rights Violations in Iraq (2003-2006). Workers in Iraq suffer violence as citizens and union members. In the face of physical and legal opposition, they have mounted strikes and formed independent union federations.
Solidarity Center Publications
Iraq Program Partners
Read the Iraq Trade Union Rights Bulletin