Iraq Unions Continue to Press for Passage of Labor Law

Labor Committee Vice President Salih Al Asady (second from left) speaks at a press conference held by Iraqi unions

Labor Committee Vice President Salih Al Asady (second from left) speaks at a press conference held by Iraqi unions

Iraqi trade union leaders and members are keeping the spotlight on Parliament, urging lawmakers to pass a trade union law that has been pending since January.

Some 82 unions members and leaders from all Iraqi trade unions, with support from the Solidarity Center, held a press conference in Basra April 15, their latest effort to secure passage of the law. If passed, it would provide first-ever worker rights protections in line with core labor standards, including freedom of association.

In a demonstration of solidarity, the Kurdistan United Workers Union (KUWU) sent two delegates to the event, which also included the head of Parliament’s labor committee.

Union representatives also raised concerns over the scope of the law, which does not cover public-sector workers. Labor Committee Vice President Salih Al Asady, who took part in the event, said he would bring the issue to Parliament. He also urged the Iraqi union leaders and members to continue to show their strength through rallies and other campaign actions to push lawmakers to vote on the law before this session ends. Elections are scheduled April 30, and the current Parliament will remain in session until June 15.

Parliament has voted on 46 of 157 articles, however the remainder have been unable to be voted on due to an insufficient number of members of Parliament showing up to each session, though the law continues to appear each day on the agenda. This is the result of political conflicts, in particular around the inability of the parliament to pass the budget law.

Six major Iraqi labor unions, together with the Solidarity Center, have worked since June 2012 to bring proposed changes to the nation’s draft labor law in line with International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. Workers are still subject to labor laws from the Saddam Hussein era.

Watch a video of the event (in Arabic).