Iraqi Government Attempts to Seize Teachers' Union
Iraqi School Children
The Iraqi government has demanded that the teachers' union (ITU) hand over the keys to its buildings and its membership lists
It has told the leaders of the union that they must hold an election (despite the fact that there have been two elections since 2003) and that they are not allowed to stand themselves and if they do they will face jail sentences of three to five years. The Iraqi government has been censured by the International Labour Organisation for using Saddam's anti-union laws against trade unions. The President of the union - Jasim al-Lami was himself jailed for six years under Saddam and says he is willing to go to jail again to protect his union.
Other unions in Iraq have called for support for the ITU at a meeting in Erbil:
We, the leaders of the trade union movement throughout Iraq - including Iraqi Kurdistan - meeting with our international colleagues in Erbil, condemn the harassment and threats directed at the Iraqi Teachers’ Union and their democratically-elected leaders.
This action is an attack on fundamental human rights and contrary to your Government’s obligation to uphold the ILO core conventions, including Convention 87 on Freedom of Association.
We call on the Iraqi Government to respect the right of the Iraqi Teachers’ Union to decide its own leadership in accordance with its own rules. We call on you to withdraw your threats to imprison Iraqi Teachers’ Union leaders and to desist from your attempts to seize the assets, membership lists and documentation of the Iraqi Teachers’ Union.
We reject your attempt to seize the union and express our solidarity with the membership and leadership of the Iraqi Teachers’ Union.
Failure to respond positively can only result in a major campaign - across Iraq and around the world - to highlight your Government’s appalling action.
We are copying this letter to the President and Prime Minister of Iraq and making it public.
General Federation of Iraqi Workers
Kurdistan Workers Union
General Workers and Crafts Syndicate Union of Kurdistan
Kurdistan Journalists Union/Iraq
Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions
Kurdistan Teachers Union/Iraq