Thursday, March 5, 2009

Defending the Iraqi Teachers' Union

Sue Rogers (photo) who addressed a meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group on the topic "Iraq: What's Happening?" has just issued the following statement from Erbil in Iraq where she is leading a TUC delegation. It condemns attempts by the Iraqi Government to seize control of the Iraqi Teachers Union (ITU).

'The Iraqi Government is acting like Saddam Hussein, treating unions as the property of the state. Iraqi trade unionists and teacher trade unions around the world are outraged at this latest attempt to seize control of our sister union.The Government has demanded that the union hand over the keys to its buildings, its membership lists, and is demanding that the existing leaders stand down or face jail sentences of three to seven years despite doing nothing wrong. This is a breach of fundamental human and trade union rights. The Iraqi Government must not be allowed to act in this dictatorial way.'

Sue Rogers is leading a TUC delegation at a workshop in Erbil, Iraq for trade union leaders from all over Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Yesterday Iraqi trade unions issued a joint statement of solidarity with the ITU, who have angered some in the Iraqi administration by securing substantial pay rises for teachers after a series of strikes and demonstrations last year.

The statement, signed by the leaders of the main Iraqi trade union confederation and the two Kurdish confederations, as well as the Kurdish Teachers Union and the powerful oil unions of Southern Iraq, appears below.

ITU President Jasim al-Lami, who has been invited to the NASUWT conference this April, was yesterday travelling back from the workshop to meet with Ministers in Baghdad. Mr al-Lami was jailed for six years in Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein and says he is ready to face jail again to defend his union.

Protests by global trade unions have already been lodged with the International Labour Organisation which last year censured Iraq for its anti-union laws, some of which have been left over from Saddam Hussein. The TUC has also written to Ministers in the UK.

Erbil Declaration of Solidarity with the Iraqi teachers' union

We, the leaders of the trade union movement throughout Iraq - including Iraqi Kurdistan - meeting with our international colleagues in Erbil, condemn the harassment and threats directed at the Iraqi Teachers' Union and their democratically-elected leaders.

This action is an attack on fundamental human rights and contrary to your Government's obligation to uphold the ILO core conventions, including Convention 87 on Freedom of Association.

We call on the Iraqi Government to respect the right of the Iraqi Teachers' Union to decide its own leadership in accordance with its own rules. We call on you to withdraw your threats to imprison Iraqi Teachers' Union leaders and to desist from your attempts to seize the assets, membership lists and documentation of the Iraqi Teachers' Union.

We reject your attempt to seize the union and express our solidarity with the membership and leadership of the Iraqi Teachers' Union.

Failure to respond positively can only result in a major campaign - across Iraq and around the world - to highlight your Government's appalling action.

We are copying this letter to the President and Prime Minister of Iraq and making it public.

Signed by

General Federation of Iraqi Workers

Kurdistan Workers Union

General Workers and Crafts Syndicate Union of Kurdistan

Kurdistan Journalists Union/Iraq

Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions

Kurdistan Teachers Union/Iraq

Protest against the actions of the Iraqi Goverenment can be made to the Iraqi Embassy via this link.

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