Iraq: public-sector workers launch sit-in campaign

IraqStrike2Workers march in Baghdad
Iraq Strike 1Striking teachers rally
Iraq’s teachers and healthcare workers are uniting with other public-sector employees to demand the government take action on improving working conditions, and pledge to begin a campaign of public sit-ins in Baghdad Dec. 26. The teachers union representing education workers in 15 provinces marched in Baghdad Dec. 16 in a one-day strike, pledging to escalate actions if the government doesn’t deal next month. The teachers are demanding the same pay as colleagues in the safer Kurdistan region, and for greater investment in deteriorating schools. Security is also a key demand, following the slaying of a Baghdad school director last month. Speaking to the Baghdad newspaper al-Mada, the deputy head of the Teachers’ Syndicate, Burhan Nema, said “Iraqi teachers will stage a sit-in as part of a protest campaign that calls for improving the living standards of 500,000 families living in poverty.”

The Ministry of Education “supports the demands of the teachers but it has not acted in a serious way with the Council of Ministers and the Committee on Education in the Parliament,” said Amir al-Qaisi of the Iraqi Teachers’ Syndicate. “The ministry’s position is one of a spectator to the educational reality in Iraq.”

The General Federation of Iraqi Workers, which includes the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), is supporting the teachers of Basra. IFOU leaders protest that the national oil ministry has relied on a decades-old anti-union law in refusing to deal with the union. “The law enacted under the Saddam regime is still acted upon and implemented by the government in Iraq,” Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions President Hassan Jumaa Awad told UPI in London last month. “Up until now the Iraqi government has not repealed these acts and are in the same position, basically.” (Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq-FWCUI press release, Dec. 22; UPI, Dec. 21; Iraq Updates, Dec. 15)

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