Freedom of Association Status, A Study by Solidarity Center on the Status of Trade
Unions in the Electricity Sector in Iraq During the last decade, the Iraqi trade union movement has faced many turning points. It has been deprived of freedom of association in the public sector for over a quarter century according to the Iraqi government decision in 1987 and the dissolved Revolution Command Council Decision No. 150, which changed workers status to employees, making them ineligible for union membership. However, the Iraqi workers have formed several trade union federations since April, 2003 and in various labor sectors, including the public sector.
These trade union organizations took the initiative to represent the Iraqi workers and to defend their rights and interests. In addition to forming trade union organizations in the enterprises of the private, mixed and cooperative sectors, the trade union federations formed organizations in public sector industries such as health, transport, ports, railways, oil, electricity, petrochemicals, and banks.
Electricity sector workers played a key role in establishing those organizations. All major Iraqi trade union federations have formed electricity trade unions in several governorates (provinces). The Union of Engineering and Technical Professionals in Iraq has also formed trade union organizations for workers and technicians in the electricity sector in several governorates. This has contributed to the formation of many trade unions that represent workers in the public sector. These trade unions have succeeded in achieving many gains and benefits for their members.
This research sheds light on the status of these trade unions post-April 2003, their achievements and the main challenges they face as the Iraqi government has not abolished the former dictatorial regime’s anti-trade union laws which ban freedom of association in the public sector. These laws were used to ban trade unions in the public sector, and the trade union offices were shut down and their assets were seized by the Iraqi police and security forces. Trade union activists and members were threatened to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Law for their trade union activism in the public sector.
This comes in conjunction with the Iraqi government-led campaign that banned freedom of association in the public sector in general and took trade unionists to court and fined them as a penalty for their union activities. Some trade union members in the oil, port, and industrial sectors were transferred from their workplaces to other workplaces very far from where they live, in an attempt to restrict their trade union activity.
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