Baghdad – Social and Economic Rights Path – November 2017

During its thirty-third regular session on Monday, November 20, the Iraqi Council of Representatives voted for Iraq to accede to the 1948 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention (No. 87). Iraq’s accession to this Convention represents a major milestone for the union movement in Iraq, in addition to the passage of Law Number 37 of 2015, which accords with international labor standards and affords considerable protections and guarantees to those individuals and organizations under its jurisdiction.

Iraqi unions and activists had struggled for years to change laws that opposed the freedom of assembly for unions, especially in the public sector, and to lay a sound legal framework for the guarantee of rights and union freedoms via accession to this Convention. Now it is up to the concerned legislative parties to pass enabling legislation in accordance with the terms of the Convention. They must also repeal the 1987 Union Assembly Law Number 52 of 1987 that violates the terms of the Convention and the 2015 Iraqi Labor Law Number 37, especially as regards the inclusion of the public sector in union organization, something that Saddam Hussein had prevented through his ill-reputed 1987 directive number 150. Once that is accomplished, the unions will have been freed from the pernicious legal restrictions with which they have been saddled over the past fourteen years, and Iraq’s accession to the Convention will have been enshrined in a labor rights law that truly is in accordance with international labor standards.

Support for securing the freedoms of Iraqi unions came from unions, civil society, and international organizations, with especially important roles played by the International Labor Organization, the Solidarity Center, the Social and Economic Rights path of the Iraqi Social Forum, the International Trade Union Confederation, the IndustriALL Global Union, and other international public-sector unions whose support of Iraqi unions and their demands was no less considerable.

The trade unions and Iraqi unions celebrated this accomplishment at the sidelines of a joint union-Iraqi Social Forum-Solidarity Center meeting to discuss social security law, which took place a day after the Council of Representatives voted on accession to the Convention. Union supporters expressed their happiness at this event, which they described as “historic,” saying that it will restore union labor to the public sector after decades of exclusion by directives and the prevailing law. A number of trade unions and Iraqi unions issued press releases congratulating Iraqi laborers and employees on this step forward, promising that they will continue to defend labor’s economic, social, and professional rights.

Prior to the agreement, labor union representatives met with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the Solidarity Center, and the Iraqi Social Forum, together with the committee on civil society foundations, to discuss the importance of the Convention to Iraq after Iraq had accepted a position within the International Labor Organization’s committee on union rights and freedoms last June, as well as the importance of resolving any technical complications in the way of Iraq’s accession to the Convention.