The lead article in this week's Economist (left) is entitled "Iraq starts to fix itself". It is backed up by a briefing article on what it sees as recent changes in Iraq, which is entitled "Is it turning the corner?". The analysis is, however, a cautious one which ends -
"Iraq's future is still full of pitfalls. The sectarian chasms remain deep, the wounds of strife raw. But for the first time since the insurgency against the Americans took off, the tide, which can quickly ebb, is flowing in the direction of the new order".
In a critical frame of mind, these articles are well worth studying. Hot from discussing the issue of Iraqi Trade Unionism with a group of Norwegian Trade Unionists at Wortley Hall in South Yorkshire, my response to the Economist's articles is as follows.
If "Iraq has started to fix itself", there is an urgent move it could make to extend this process. The Iraqi Government could both recognise and consult with its Trade Union Movement.
Currently Trade unions are banned in the dominant public sector of the economy under a law inherited from Saddam Hussein. In case the law does not fully bite, Trade Union funds have been sequestrated by the State in a decree adopted in 2005; whilst the Iraqi Government has persistently refused to adopt alternative ILO-compliant laws. Even Trade Union elections in the smaller private sector are to be interfered with this summer by restrictions on who can stand as candidates. Also Trade Union leaders trying to work in the Basra Oil Industry have been relocated elsewhere following their organising opposition to oil privatisation.
Free Trade Unions have a vested interest in civil liberties, democratic practices and non-sectarianism. Thankfully the Iraqi Government's controls do not apply to the federal unit of Iraqi Kurdistan, where the percentage of workers in Trade Unions is higher than in Britain and where they have made their own contribution to a section of Iraq which has been fixing itself for some time."
It should be noted that my source is the TUC.