Iraqi teachers union under attack

(UnionBook) The Iraqi Teachers Union is facing extreme attack from the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government has appointed an official body and granted it the authority to take over the union. This government body demanded that the leadership of the union must hand over the keys to its headquarters along with membership and other records.

The government claims it wants the union to hold national elections and that the current leadership are not allowed to stand for re-election.

It is worth noting that the ITU has already held two national conferences since 2003 with a third emergency conference in late 2007 to elect a new president, brother Jasim Al Lami.

This [government action] is a clear violation and interference in the internal democratic affairs of the union by the current Iraqi government. The ITU leadership has refused to hand over the union and is ready to struggle to preserve the independence of the ITU. The leadership of the union said they will hand over the union only to a newly elected leadership at in open national conference organized by the ITU. The ITU leadership, because of its firm but principled position, is under the threat of prison sentence.

The Iraqi government has continued to be hostile to free trade unionism, despite the huge support it received from the unions in Iraq ever since 2003. The Iraqi government not only refused to abolish Saddam’s Hussein restrictive anti-union law but in fact it has used it against the Iraqi nascent democratic unions, and has been reluctant to enact an internationally recognized labor code, but further it issued in 2005 another restrictive order that took over the assets and monies of the unions.

The Iraqi trade union movement (the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, GFIW) has submitted a complaint against the Iraqi government to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and I believe the ILO has censured the Iraqi government over its violation of trade unions rights in Iraq and called on the government to back off and hence allow the unions in Iraq to organize openly and freely.

The current attempts by the Iraqi government to take over the union are not just illegitimate and unacceptable but blatant interference and are a clear violation of the Iraqi Constitution that guarantees workers the right to organize.

The ITU will resort to all means and activities guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution to defend its right to organize teachers openly and freely.

The ITU will organize protests, strikes and file lawsuits against all these undemocratic procedures that are dictatorial-inspired culture.

The ITU held a national protest in central Baghdad on March 21, 2009, to highlight the issues it is facing but has unfortunately been subjected to abuses by the Iraqi security forces. The ITU, while it deplores and condemns the practice of the security forces, is adamant to carry on with struggle and hence is organizing another national protest with a major demonstration in central Baghdad on March 28. The ITU is calling on trade unions supporters across the globe to raise their voices against these undemocratic practices by the elected government of Iraq.

----- Abdullah Muhsin is a spokesperson for the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, and the British representative of the Iraqi Teachers Union. This article was originally posted at www.unionbook.org.