Iraq: "The bedrock of democracy is a strong labour movement"

Submitted by AWL on 21 July, 2005 - 7:37

Leaders from the three main trade union organisations in Iraq — the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions of Iraq (FWCUI), and the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE) — toured the USA in June.

On 26 June, at the end of the tour, they made a joint statement, together with US Labor Against The War, who organised the tour.

What’s in the statement is commonplace. Opposition both to the occupation and to the “terrorists”, support for women’s equality and cancellation of Iraq’s Saddam-era debt, and opposition to privatisation, are all long-standing positions of the different Iraqi trade union groups. Being a joint statement, the text glosses over such issues at the IFTU’s softly-softly approach to the occupation or the GUOE leadership’s greater sympathy for the current Iraqi transitional government majority (the Shia United Iraqi Alliance).

But it is very significant, and good news, that it is a joint statement.

That is significant because it opens up hopes of joint action by the unions in Iraq. For example, a conference against privatisation organised by the GUOE in May also had IFTU representatives there.

The joint statement was designed as a counterblast to some leftists in the USA who had denounced the tour on the grounds that the IFTU is “pro-imperialist”. It should also help clear the way for solidarity here in Britain. Here, a large part of the left denounces the IFTU, shuns or ignores the FWCUI, and either ignores the GUOE or presents it (falsely) as a subordinate part of the so-called “resistance”. (Implausible, since the “resistance” is mostly Sunni-supremacist, and the GUOE, based in the southern oilfields, is heavily Shia in membership).

Iraq Union Solidarity, set up from the TUC’s Iraq conference in February 2005, seeks to organise solidarity on a class basis with all the genuine trade union organisations in Iraq, irrespective of their different policies and the criticisms we may have of them.


Joint Statement by Leaders of Iraq’s labour movement and US Labor Against the War.

We, the representatives of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE), and U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) issue this statement at the conclusion of an historic 25-city tour by leaders of the three Iraqi labor organisations in the United States.

We speak in the spirit of international solidarity and respect for labor rights around the world. We speak in the spirit of opposition to war and occupation and for the right of self-determination of nations and peoples.

On behalf of the Iraqi labor movement, we met and spoke directly to thousands of Americans, including workers, union, religious and political leaders, anti-war activists and ordinary citizens. All of us, both Iraqi and American, were deeply heartened at the solidarity expressed throughout the tour. We have seen with our eyes and felt with our hearts that the people of the United States do not want the war and occupation of Iraq to continue. We are strengthened in our understanding of the deep commitment of organized labor and workers in Iraq to a unified democratic, independent Iraq, with full equality between women and men in terms of rights and duties, and based on full respect for the human identity without discrimination on any basis.

The tour was an expression of the following key principles:

The principal obstacle to peace, stability, and the reconstruction of Iraq is the occupation. The occupation is the problem, not the solution. Iraqi sovereignty and independence must be restored. The occupation must end in al its forms, including military bases and economic domination. The war was fought for oil and regional domination, in violation of international law, justified by lies and deception without consultation with the Iraqi people. The occupation has been a catastrophe for both our peoples.

In Iraq, it has destroyed homes and industry, national institutions and infrastructure – water, sanitation, electric power and health services. It has killed many thousands, and left millions homeless and unemployed. It has poisoned the people, their land and water with the toxic residue of the war.

In the United States, more than 1700 working families have suffered loss of loved ones and thousands more have been wounded, disabled or psychologically scarred in a war that serves no legitimate purpose. The cost of the war has led to slashing of social programs and public services. It has militarized our economy, undermined our own liberties and eroded our democratic rights.

We believe it is the best interest of both our peoples for the war and occupation to end and for the Iraqi people to determine for themselves their future and the kind and extent of international aid and cooperation that suits their needs and serves the interests of the Iraqi people.

We strongly and unambiguously condemn terrorist attacks on civilians and targeting of trade union and other civil society leaders for intimidation, kidnapping, torture and assassination. The occupation is fuel on the fire of terrorism.

The national wealth and resources of Iraq belong to the Iraqi people. We are united in our opposition to the imposition of privatization of the Iraqi economy by the occupation, the IMF, the World Bank, foreign powers and any force that takes away the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own economic future.

We call on nations across the globe to help Iraqis regain their economic capacity, including full reparations from the US and British governments to rebuild the war-ravaged country.

We call for the cancellation of Saddam’s massive foreign debt by the IMF and other international lenders without any conditions imposed upon the people of Iraq who suffered under the regime that was supported by these loans. The foreign debt of Iraq is the debt of a fallen dictatorship, not the debt incurred by the Iraqi people. Further, we call for the cancellation of reparations imposed as a result of wars waged by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and call for the return of all Iraqi property and antiquities taken during the war and occupation.

The bedrock of any democracy is a strong, free, democratic labor movement. We are united in our commitment to build strong, independent, democratic unions and to fight to improve the wages, working and living conditions of workers everywhere. We confront the same economic and corporate interests that have mounted a global assault on workers and labor rights. We demand strong labor rights in Iraq at the same time that we strive to reverse the erosion of labor rights in the United States and elsewhere around the world where they are threatened. We call for free and independent labor unions in Iraq based on internationally recognized ILO conventions guaranteeing the right to organize free of all government interference and including full equality for women workers. We support the direct participation of labor and workers’ representatives in drafting the new labor code, in determining government policies affecting unions and workers’ interests, and in drafting the new constitution. We condemn the continued enforcement of Saddam’s decree number 150 issued in 1987 that abolished union rights for workers in the extensive Iraqi public sector and call for its immediate repeal.

We commit ourselves to strengthening the bonds of solidarity and friendship between working people of our two countries and to increase communication and cooperation between our two labor movements. We look forward to delegations of Iraqis and Americans visiting each other’s countries for mutual support, and to strengthen international understanding and solidarity in our common struggle for peace and establishment of a democratic civil society that respects human rights and freedom.

With the strength and solidarity of workers across the US, in Iraq and internationally, we are confident that we can build a just and democratic future for labor in Iraq, the US, and around the world.

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