Iraq: labor conference pledges to fight for workers’ rights, against privatization

From the Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC), March 17:

Under the slogan of “A Better World Can be Made by Workers,” the First International Iraqi Labour Conference was held in Erbil in the Kurdish Region of Iraq on 13 and 14 of March. The event drew more than 200 delegates from unions and federations across Iraq and solidarity delegations from the US, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and Iran.

More than a year in the making, the conference drew unions’ representatives from General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, General Union of Oil Workers in Iraq, the Association of Electricity Workers, Union of Petrochemical Workers, Union of Port Workers and activists and workers from Mosul, Salahuddin. Also attending were activists and workers of the newspaper of the Kurdistan Worker Solidarity, and the teachers union in Basra, Salahuddin, Engineering Society, the Union of Journalists and Writers in Basra, a large number of media and political figures and the representative of the UN mission (UNAMI), and a number of trade unionists who played an active role in the earlier history of the Iraqi trade union movement.

As well as representatives from the Communication Workers Union, Union of the steel workers and union of oil workers in California and the US Labour Against The War, Iraq veterans against the war, the Union of Communication Workers of South Africa, Iraq Trade Union Solidarity Committee in UK, Panasonic Trade Union “Fellow Workers” and the Movement for Democratic Socialism in Japan, Federation of Free Workers from Iran, Construction, forestry, Mining and Energy workers of Australia.

Prior to the start an exhibition of Fine Arts was organized under the same slogan, which was opened by the representative of the Kurdistan regional government and the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Mr. Adnan Mohamed Kader. Also the event was attended by Colonel Khalid Abbas representative of the governor of Erbil.

The conference was opened by a minute of silence in tribute to the sacrifices of the working class for freedom and equality, then a speech by Samir Adil, conference coordinator followed by a speech by the representative of the Kurdistan regional government and the Minister of Labour and speeches of the heads of unions who participated in the conference, including brother Hassan Juma President of the federation of oil workers in Iraq, brother Subhi Al-Badri, head of the General Federation of Workers councils and unions in Iraq, Sister Saba Qasim in charge of Women’s Affairs of the federation of oil workers, brother Michael Eisenscher National Coordinator of US Labour Against the war, brother Mansour Razaghi, Construction, Forestry and Mining and Energy Union of Australia, brother Kondo Takasoma President of the Federation of Workers of the Panasonic company, Gallant Robert, General secretary of Communication Workers Union of South Africa (COSATU) and brother Rahim Soltani of the Federation of Free Workers from Iran. A video message of greeting was broadcasted to the Conference by U.S Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

After discussion and amendments the participants voted on a number of draft resolutions submitted by the Preparatory Committee and they are:

1. Resolution to form an international front against wars, economic blockade and the prevention of union rights
2. Resolution on the global economic crisis and the workers stance
3. Resolution on the Iraqi government’s interference into workers affairs
4. Resolution to promote and support an independent, non-sectarian and non-ethnic government in Iraq
5. Resolution on immediate enactment of a Labour Code to give all workers the right to organize and bargain in unions of their choice
6. Resolution against the draft oil and gas law
7. Resolution against privatization
8. Resolution to support the workers in the Japanese Corporation (Panasonic).

On the second day of the conference a number of workshops were organized about the risks of privatization, the draft oil and gas law, labour law and trade union freedoms, women’s and trade union action, global labour solidarity, war and the psychological repercussion, and labour media.

A number of solidarity messages were read at the conference, sent by figures that have a long history of struggle in the labour movement, including brother Ara Khajador, former secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions of Iraq, well known for his sacrifices; sister Suaad Khaeri, a long time fighter for the working class; brothers Hisqail Qojman, Abid Jassim, Ghathban Ahmed and Shanshal Abdullah, union leaders of cooking oil plant strike in 1968, all of whom received a standing ovation.

Congratulatory messages were received from the labor leader, Mahmoud Salehi, in the Iranian city of Saqqez, the left-wing student organization at the University of Basra and the progressive students of the University of Salahuddin.

At the conclusion of the conference, decorative plates bearing the conference logo were presented to the foreign delegations, associations and trade unions and organizational representatives who attended.

At the end of the event, three major federations announced the formation of a new labour confederation that will include the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq, and the Association of Electricity (utility workers) in Iraq, and the General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq

The conference concluded with the same slogan (a better world can be made by workers).

International Labour Conference

Erbil 13 & 14 March, 2009

See our last posts on Iraq and the labor struggle.