Iraq plea from MP at ASLEF Conference

05 June 2006

‘I opposed the war in Iraq from the very start – but that is history,’ Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon told delegates to ASLEF’s conference. ‘Our task now is to truly liberate the people of that country by helping them to organise themselves in strong, effective and independent trade unions.’


Dave, a former coal miner and member of the TUC’s general council, led a delegation of 8 trade unionists to Iraq in March this year – and admits that he had not expected to be told some of the things he heard. ‘Some Iraqi trade unionists welcomed the invasion of their country because of the torture and repression they had suffered under the Saddam regime.’


However, there is strong criticism of the new Iraqi government – which is distinctly unhelpful to union organisation.


‘The new Iraqi government has issued a decree - 8750 – establishing a ‘committee of investigation’ to see ‘under what remit a trade union should organise’ – and in the interim the government will control all union finances and activities.


‘Also, the new government has failed to repeal decree 150 – which was introduced by Saddam and makes it illegal for public sector workers to belong to a trade union.


‘This includes workers in transport, energy, welfare and local services.’


Dave also reported moves in the south to encourage the forming of sectarian trade unions based on religion. ‘This is both a formula for disaster and an affront to the ideals of unionism.’


Dave wants unions to commit themselves to supporting training programmes for Iraqi unionists, and individuals to donate surplus mobile phones and computers through the TUC.


‘It is terrible to see deprivation in a country that is rich in minerals and oil and has massive tourist potential.


‘What it lacks is investment.’


This is why Dave works hard – especially through Labour Friends of Iraq - to organise political pressure that will make it easier for Iraq to attract capital - without strings - to rebuild its economy and provide jobs for ordinary Iraqi citizens.

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