Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) – 27 August 2015
The Iraqi Council of Representatives approved at its fourteenth session held on Monday 17 August 2015, in the presence of 271 deputies, a new labor law. This law, long-awaited by the workers, represents a national victory, which comes after decades of struggle by the Iraqi trade unions for fair and equitable treatment of all categories of workers to ensure their rights in accordance with international labor standards. The law finally became reality following the approval by the House of Representatives of the draft labor law that was submitted by the Labour and Social Affairs Committee, the Legal Committee, the Committee on Family, Women and Child, and civil society organizations. The draft included a package of amendments that had been submitted by the Iraqi trade unions and were crucial union demands. Nearly all of the amendments proposed by the unions were approved.
The new law will apply to all workers in Iraq, those in the public, private, mixed, and cooperative sector. The law will regulate the relationship between employees and employers according to economic principles. It allows collective bargaining and guarantees the right to strike. It establishes a minimum working age of 15 years in order to prevent child labor. The law also provides greater protection for workers through the prohibition of forced labor and discrimination between workers. It also protects workers from unfair dismissal and provides for penalties against employers who engage in these practices. The law for the first time prohibits harassment in the workplace; those who commit such violations are to be punished. The law promotes the rights of women workers and the rights of foreign workers, in order to ensure their dignity and prevent any discrimination. It specifies times of work, wage regulations and vacation policy. Overall, the law aims to create a legal basis for the rights of wide categories of workers who were not covered by previous law, and to respect the fundamental principles and rights of workers as detailed in international conventions and treaties of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.
This victory would not have been possible without the workers’ and unions’ efforts and dedication and the collaboration of the Iraqi trade unions as a team, which had a huge impact on the final issuance of the new labor law after long years of waiting. Through this collaboration, the unions were able to assert their perspectives and opinions, and win the vital amendments to the proposed law, gaining rights that they lacked for decades. The pressure exerted by the unions came through their cooperation, working hand-in-hand to hold meetings with officials of the Parliament and its committees. The most recent and important consultative meeting held by the Committee of Labour and Social Affairs in the Iraqi Council of Representatives in cooperation with the International Labor Solidarity Center – Iraq Program in Baghdad took place from 5-7 August. Thirty-eight female and male trade unionists, representatives of six major labor unions, and representatives of six Iraqi civil society organizations, met in intense discussion with representatives of the Presidency of the Council of Representatives and the Parliamentary Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs, the Legal Committee in the House of Representatives, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
The trade unions directed joint letters to the House of Representatives and all competent committees demanding adoption of the law with the unions’ crucial amendments. The unions were firmly united that the amendments were vital to enacting a just law.
International organizations such as the ILO, ITUC, AFL-CIO, TUC, labor organizations in Europe, USLAW, the Solidarity Center, NGOs such as Un Ponte Per, as well as the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative and the Iraqi Social Forum, all played active and significant roles in providing the necessary support for Iraqi unions to move forward with their attempts to pass new labor legislation. This support came through a variety of activities that included consulting, training Iraqi trade unionists (in particular, on international labour standards which allowed them to establish a legal platform for effective participation in the process of drafting and amending legislation), organizing conferences, sending letters of support for Iraqi trade unions to the legislative authorities in Iraq, and also launching campaigns of advocacy for the Iraqi trade unions to help them fight for their rights and issue modern labor laws.
Iraqi trade unions triumphantly welcome the issuance of the new labor law and also consider it as a step in the right direction for other reforms. The union members were quick to go out and stand along side demonstrators who are protesting on Fridays against the political, financial and administrative corruption and demanding real and urgent reforms. Al-Tahreer Square was crowded last week with demonstrators carrying signs and chanting slogans that stressed the importance of the missing laws, at this point, for workers’ rights: the Freedom of Association Law and the Right to Organize Law in line with international labor standards, which would allow workers to establish and belong to unions in all sectors (particularly the public sector) without restrictions. The fact is that this employment discrimination and injustice was imposed by the former regime as part of a political agenda aimed at weakening the Iraqi working class. Trade unions now will demand further legislation on retirement and social security benefits that improve the social situation of workers and their families and ensure them protection and support at all stages of life.
The great pressure exerted by the Iraqi people through continuous protest in Baghdad demanding reform on all levels, in addition to the demonstrations by workers that occurred in many other Iraqi cities had a significant impact on passing the labor law at this time, particularly after an earlier postponement of the vote on the law by the Presidency of the Council of Representatives.
The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative [ICSSI] congratulates all Iraqi workers and trade unions for this victory in winning their rights, which were too long usurped! ICSSI emphasizes its continuous support of the workers and the trade unions in order to pass the Right to Organize and Freedom of Association and Social Security Laws. ICSSI also commends the efforts of all activists, trade unionists, local and international organizations and committees who contributed to achieving this historic labor victory.