Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Iraq Union Leaders Speak About Labor Movement (2)

Iraq Union Leaders Speak about Labor Movement - Part II of II


By Sonia Nettnin
See also… Iraqi Union Leaders Speak About Occupation (1)


Iraq Union Leaders Falah Awan (left) and Amjad Ali Aljawhry (right) pause before the question and answer session with the audience. They are speakers on the Iraq Labor Solidarity Tour sponsored by U.S. Labor Against the War."

(Chicago) – Iraqi labor leaders Falah Awan and Amjad Ali Aljawhry spoke about the current state of Iraq and the challenges Iraqi workers face with an outdated labor code.

Awan is president of the Federation of Workers Councils and the Union of Iraq (FWCUI) and Aljawhry is representative of the FWCUI and the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq (UUI) for North America. Both workers’ organizations want independent, democratic unions free of government control.

As president of FWCUI, Awan said that the principles of Iraq’s labor organizations have humanitarian goals.

“We fight for participation in writing the constitution,” he said. “We fight the domination of the right-wing powers of Iraq.” He believes the millions of people around the world who marched against the war need to reorganize so they can end the occupation. Through the empowerment of the workers’ movement, Iraqis can restore pro-civil society.

When asked about the overwhelming violence in Iraq, Awan and Aljawhry, (who translated Awan’s responses to the audience) explained that people have to distinguish between the current forms of violence. With regards to gangs and thieves, they existed before and after the occupation, as they exist everywhere in the world. With support from neighboring countries, car bombings, targeted killings and assassinations from reactionary groups causes devastation and disunity.

“The question is going to be the balance of power and who will take the lead after withdrawal,” Awan said. From the FWCUI’s standpoint, the solution to the problem lies within the democratic, secular society, which cannot allow the gangs into power. If the labor movement is successful, the violent groups will lose their ground.

Security deteriorated after January’s elections, according to the speakers. The occupation set these groups free who now face the troops, which caused catastrophe.

In response, an audience member who declared he was a social progressive said he had issues with the speakers’ beliefs. He contended that resisters have a right to fight and he left his definition of resistance groups open-ended throughout his five-minute speech. The audience gasped and murmured.

Aljawhry took off his glasses, wiped his face and retorted that bombing a school bus with 25 children has nothing to do with the occupation. He mentioned a suicide bomber who entered a market and injured over 100 people. “What does that have to do with occupation?” Aljawhry asked.

Awan explained that although we (the speakers) did not say we are against resistance and the Geneva Charter (Conventions) allows for armed resistance if people are occupied; people carry guns because there is a tendency to drive out the occupation.

He mentioned an extremist group that did not have a clear political agenda and “…these groups took matters into their own hands,” so the speakers answered the audience with several responses about Iraqi resistance. Then Awan addressed it from an economic perspective.

Security problems within devastated districts either diverted contracts to foreign companies or postponed several restoration projects, which solidified some urban areas into ghost cities. Rerouted contract agreements mean other companies lost opportunities to present their bid proposals, which translates into missed job prospects for unemployed Iraqi workers.

Deals signed in secret for long-term projects, such as hotels and airports, have ramifications beyond the crossfire. The political instability of occupation and the violence caused by it prohibits Iraqis from participation in their country’s economic development.

While the labor code remains out of date, contract negotiations for labor agreements between unions and potential employers, which can span several years, are nonexistent. These contract agreements detail issues such as wage scales for job titles, job requirements, skills training, health and safety standards, insurance benefits, holiday pay, expectations, and procedures.

For example, the average wage for an Iraqi worker is $45 U.S. dollars per month. It was $35 U.S. dollars per month. Despite a recent ten-dollar increase, the average worker who earns a living cannot pay one month’s rent. In the current economic conditions, clothing is a luxury. Skyrocketing fuel prices make utilities and transportation expensive for the average Iraqi family.

According to the organization Chicago Labor for Peace, Prosperity and Justice, the Coalition Provisional Authority Head Paul Bremer “…decreed Iraqi workers can be arrested and interned as prisoners of war for leading union protests.” Even though 40 – 70 per cent of Iraqi workers are without jobs, there is neither a decrease in the unemployment rate nor humanitarian relief in sight.

Awan emphasized that they do not want their speeches and projects to be just hopes and dreams - they want their action plan to become reality. Soon after the FWCUI’s inception in December 2003, the federation established strong ties with the progressive labor movement in countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Korea, and Japan.

“We try to empower these relationships and ties,” he said, “to give a framework to this action plan.” On a global scale, he assessed that the occupation imposes a model on Iraq for the creation of the global empire, until countries around the world become separate, unstable provinces.

Another audience member asked the speakers if they would tell the Iraqis back home that the war is not the fault of terrorists but a covert action of the administration to create an unstable Iraq.

Awan responded: “let’s not go through the theory of conspiracy.” Then, he proceeded to talk about Iraqi workers.

When asked whether their labor organizations accept Kurds, “Our federation includes so many members,” they said, “we don’t identify our workers as Kurds or Arabs, we identify them as workers.”

The audience applauded.

Earlier in the program, they expressed their organizations are free of religious, political, gender, and ethnic discrimination.

When asked about their position on foreign workers, they said “…as a union we don’t believe kicking out the foreign workers is the solution to our problems, this means racism against other workers.” The rebuilding of Iraq will need Iraqis employed and it will require more workers outside of Iraq.

At this crucial juncture, Iraq’s reconstruction has daily challenges.

U.S. Labor Against the War sponsored the Iraq Labor Tour. USLAW consists of: 5 national labor organizations; 29 central labor councils; 13 regional labor organizations; 19 large locals; 40 small local unions; 3 allied labor organizations; 13 labor antiwar groups; and 6 unclassified labor organizations.

***

Special coverage brought to you by journalist Sonia Nettnin.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 


Julian Assange: A Thousand Days In Belmarsh
Julian Assange has now been in the maximum-security facilities of Belmarsh prison for over 1,000 days. On the occasion of his 1,000th day of imprisonment, campaigners, supporters and kindred spirits gathered to show their support, indignation and solidarity at this political detention most foul... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: The Mauling Of Novak Djokovic
Rarely can the treatment of a grand sporting figure by officialdom have caused such consternation. Novak Djokovic, the tennis World Number One, has always had a tendency to get under skin and constitution, creating a large following of admirers and detractors. But his current treatment by Australian authorities, and his subsequent detention as an unlawful arrival despite being granted a visa to participate in the Australian Open, had the hallmarks of oppression and incompetent vulgarity... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Voices Of Concern: Aussies For Assange’s Return

With Julian Assange now fighting the next stage of efforts to extradite him to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 of which are based on the brutal, archaic Espionage Act, some Australian politicians have found their voice. It might be said that a few have even found their conscience... More>>



Forbidden Parties: Boris Johnson’s Law On Illegal Covid Gatherings

It was meant to be time to reflect. The eager arms of a new pandemic were enfolding a society with asphyxiating, lethal effect. Public health authorities advocated various measures: social distancing, limited contact between family and friends, limited mobility. No grand booze-ups. No large parties. No bonking, except within dispensations of intimacy and various “bubble” arrangements. Certainly, no orgies... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Question Time Is Anything But
The focus placed on the first couple of Question Time exchanges between the new leader of the National Party and the Prime Minister will have seemed excessive to many but the most seasoned Parliamentary observers. Most people, especially those outside the Wellington beltway, imagine Question Time is exactly what it sounds... More>>



Gasbagging In Glasgow: COP26 And Phasing Down Coal

Words can provide sharp traps, fettering language and caging definitions. They can also speak to freedom of action and permissiveness. At COP26, that permissiveness was all the more present in the haggling ahead of what would become the Glasgow Climate Pact... More>>