Dead Men Left

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Iraqi trade unions (again)

The General Secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, Subhi Al Mashadani, will be one of the speakers at an ESF plenary session entitled 'End the Occupation of Iraq' at the ESF on Saturday (Alexandra Palace, 7-9pm). This may surprise some, coming just weeks after Abdullah Muhsin, IFTU's London representative, appeared at the Labour Party conference to lobby in support of the continuing the occupation of Iraq. Other speakers on the platform include Lindsey German. German was recently denounced by those labour movement stalwarts at Harry's Place for "scabbing" on Iraqi trade unions, following the unexceptional statement issued by the Stop the War Coalition rightly condemning IFTU for lobbying against British trade unions' agreed policy on Iraq.

With Subi Al Mashadani's speaking on this platform, and to this subject, it seems the situation in IFTU is less clear-cut than the pro-war "left" wish to claim. This is in addition to IFTU's only partial representation of Iraqi trade unionists: many other federations exist, including the Federation of Workers' Councils anhd Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), which opposes the occupation. IFTU is the largest of these, but in no way can it claim to represent all Iraqi union members - and least of all on a critical issue like the occupation.

Of additional concern is IFTU's willingness to participate in breaking the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) minimum standards on trade union rights: IFTU was declared in Decree 16 of the Iraqi Governing Council to be the sole legitimate collective representative of Iraqi workers. This is in violation of ILO articles 87 and 98, which uphold the right of workers to decide their own forms of representation. Since the "handover" of power in Iraq, the interim government has confirmed Decree 16. The FWCUI and the Union of the Unemployed of Iraq have lodged a formal complaint with the ILO about this breach of workers' rights.