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Welcome To Liberated Iraq:
25th Aug 05 By Ken Ferguson, Via Occupation Watch

The rising tempo of union organisation in occupied Iraq is clearly worrying
the US-backed administration.

The Iraqi government is attempting to control trade union activity by
overturning an agreement that allowed unions to operate without any undue
interference or harassment from the state.

A new decree adopted by the Iraqi Council of Ministers stated that the
government would be "taking control of all monies belonging to the trade
unions to prevent them from dispensing any such monies".

Ominously the decree also says that new proposals on how trade unions
should function, operate and organise will be prepared.

The proposals have drawn protests from UK trade unions.

TUC [Trades Union Congress] general secretary Brendan Barber has written to
both the Iraqi embassy and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw opposing the move.

"If the government of Iraq wishes to revise the arrangements under which
trade unions operate they should be discussing that with the trade unions
themselves rather than closing them down."

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis told Straw that the decree represents
a major attack on the ability of independent and democratic trade unions to

"I am concerned that this decree, and especially the measures relating to
trade union financial assets, is an attempt to curb the growth of free
trade unions in Iraq," he said.

Train drivers have faced a number of attacks and ASLEF [Amalgamated Society
of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen] leader Keith Norman said:

"ASLEF demands no less for Iraqi workers and their trade unions than it
does for British workers."

"That is to be able to elect their leaders, control their funds, be free of
government interference and enjoy the rights laid down by the International
Labour Organisation."

The moves to restrict union activity come against a background of
continuing growth in union membership. There been attacks on numerous trade
union members, including a number of train drivers.

This process of organisation is being assisted by UK unions such as UNISON,
which has recently been providing training for activists in Jordan who then
deploy their skills in Iraq.

One example of the growing union activity saw health care workers in the
hospital and medical centres in Kirkuk and its suburban cities organising a
two-hour general strike against pay cuts imposed by the Health Ministry.

The workers explained:  "After two and half years of the downfall of the
former regime, we the health care workers who are considered the most
important part of the society do not enjoy our most basic rights."

"However, the ministry, instead of appreciating our work, issued a
resolution to decrease our pay that we earned through years of struggle.

"Iraq is a very rich country and has all resources that are able to bring
prosperity and welfare for every Iraqi."

Alongside opposing pay cuts, they are seeking extra payments for weekend
working, for working in areas where epidemics are present, and a link
between pay and inflation.

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