Monday, November 17, 2003

We're enforcing Saddam's anti-union laws!

An Anti-Labor Line in the Sand: LA Times

"In plants and factories all over Iraq, workers are quickly organizing unions. They want better wages. They want shorter hours (workers at the refinery and elsewhere often work 11- and 13-hour shifts without additional pay). They want safety shoes, goggles, masks and other protective gear. Most of all, they want a voice in the future of their jobs.

But in their quest for what they see as simple fairness in the workplace, they are encountering a determined foe: the Coalition Provisional Authority. Whenever the new unions try to talk with the managers or ministries that operate the plants, they're told that a law passed by Saddam Hussein in 1987 is still being enforced by the CPA. This law says that workers in state-owned enterprises (where the majority of Iraqis work) have no right to form unions or to bargain for contracts.

The law violates at least two conventions of the United Nations' International Labor Organization. But on June 5, CPA chief L. Paul Bremer III backed up this decree with another that Iraqi union activists say bans strikes and demonstrations that would disrupt economic activity."

So this is democracy, eh? I am genuinely ashamed to be British. Seriously. This sort of activity is the only hope for Iraqi liberty. Freedom is not a thing that you can unload from the back of a truck. It is a practice, an activity, a process. The people who have formed 170 (at the last count) newspapers in Iraq are doing democracy. The union organisers are doing democracy. And we are apparently pointing guns at them.

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