Iraq: police raid electricity unions

Police raided and shut down electrical workers unions across Iraq in mid-July, carrying out an order from the Ministry of Electricity that prohibits "all trade union activities at the ministry and its departments and sites" and authorizes police "to close all trade union offices and bases and to take control of unions' assets properties and documents, furniture and computers."

Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq's oil minister, who was also recently appointed electricity minister, issued a decree that:

* Prohibits all trade union activity and ceases all forms of cooperation and official discussions with the electricity sector unions;

* Directs management to help police enforce the closure of union offices and confiscation of documents, furniture, computers and anything else present;

* Orders all enterprises to take immediate legal action against anyone who threatens or uses force or causes any damage to public property under the 2005 anti-terrorism law; and

* Orders all departments and enterprises to repeal any benefits and privileges union members have gained.

This action, violating all of the norms of internationally recognized labor rights, escalates a broad attack on unions that has been taking place in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein that has included:

* Continued enforcement of Saddam's ban on unions in the public sector and public enterprises;

* Freezing union bank accounts and assets;

* Banning union leaders from traveling outside Iraq without prior government approval;

* Transferring union leaders to remote locations far from their homes, families and union members;

* Issuing criminal charges against Oil Union Federation officers alleging they are undermining the Iraqi economy by protesting privatization of oil resources and companies;

* Ignoring the requirement in the Iraqi Constitution calling for enactment of a basic labor rights law;

* Violating ILO Convention 98 on collective bargaining to which Iraq is signatory.

US Labor Against the War (USLAW) is calling for messages of protest to the Iraqi government. Please click here.

See our last posts on Iraq and the labor struggle.

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