Iraq Leather workers win strike for back wages, 2009

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Timing
Time Period:  
6 October
2009
to
7 December
2009
Location and Goals
Country: 
Iraq
Location City/State/Province: 
Baghdad
Goals: 
- Payment of back wages from 1 January 2008

- Payment of safety benefits

- Settlements for those fired for political reasons during Saddam's regime

 

In 1987, the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein passed Resolution 150 which prohibited public sector workers from organizing independent trade unions. Though this policy had yet to be replaced following Hussein’s removal from power, public sector workers began organizing nonetheless. One such group that sparked a number of other labor groups to mobilize was the leather workers who led a strike in 2009 with the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions of Iraq (FWCUI).

On 6 October, the leather workers participated in a peaceful demonstration along with a series of demonstrations and marches organized by other workers of the Ministry of Industry. The demonstration took place in the International Zone of Baghdad where the demonstrators were confronted by armed troops who opened fire on them. After this violent incident, authorities agreed to meet the demands of the leather workers: payment of back wages, payment of safety benefits, and the settlement for those fired for political reasons under the Hussein regime.

The authorities’ promise proved empty, however, and on 13 October, the leather workers announced and launched a new strike from “The Public Enterprise for Leather Production”.

The strike continued and on 3 November, the FWCUI called for an expansion of the leather industries strike into other industries. Union activists distributed pamphlets at numerous other companies. Through this, the leather workers were able to gain support by the cotton workers, though many employers prohibited their employees from participating by preventing them from leaving the building.

Finally, on 21 November, administrators agreed to release back wages and reveal the details of payroll and accounting. Further settlements were reached in early December when the leather workers were promised a 25%-30% increase to their salaries for working in hazardous conditions. Referring to their experience with the empty promises on the part of the authorities from the 6 October demonstrations, the leather workers insisted on continuing their strike until they had received the money in cash.

On 7 December, the strike was successfully concluded with all of the leather workers having been paid their stipend in cash.

Because union organization continued to grow stronger after this victory, however, the Ministry of Industry exercised their power by transferring strike leader and FWCUI president Falah Alwan to another location so as to limit the union’s organizing abilities.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"ICEM - Safety Benefits Won by Iraqi Leather Workers after 53-Day Strike." ICEM - Safety Benefits Won by Iraqi Leather Workers after 53-Day Strike. International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions, 11 Jan. 2010. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://www.icem.org/en/78-ICEM-InBrief/3571-Safety-Benefits-Won-by-Iraqi-Leather-Workers-after-53-Day-Strike>.

"ICEM - Iraqi Trade Unionist Murdered." ICEM - Iraqi Trade Unionist Murdered. International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions, 30 Nov. 2009. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://www.icem.org/en/78-ICEM-InBrief/3531-Iraqi-Trade-Unionist-Murdered>.

Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq. "Iraq: The Leather Workers' Strike Enters Its Sixth Week | In Defence of Marxism." Iraq: The Leather Workers' Strike Enters Its Sixth Week | In Defence of Marxism. International Marxist Tendency, 09 Dec. 2009. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://www.marxist.com/iraq-leather-workers-strike-sixth-week.htm>.

Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq. "Iraq: Victory for the Leather Industry Workers on the 47th Day of Their Strike | In Defence of Marxism." Iraq: Victory for the Leather Industry Workers on the 47th Day of Their Strike | In Defence of Marxism. International Marxist Tendency, 10 Dec. 2009. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://www.marxist.com/iraq-victory-leather-industry-workers-47th-day-strike.htm>.

"Iraqi Armed Forces Shoot at Peaceful Demonstration of the Industrial Workers." Democracyinaction.org. U.S. Labor Against the War, 07 Oct. 2009. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://hq-salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2488/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1159099>.

Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq. "Victory for Iraqi Leather Workers." Workers' Liberty. Workers' Liberty, 31 Dec. 2009. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2009/12/31/victory-iraqi-leather-workers>.

Issa, Ali. "Texas Labor Against the War." Victory for Iraqi Leather Industry Workers as Strikes Spread. Texas Labor Against the War, 02 Jan. 2010. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://txlaboragainstwar.org/2010/01/03/victory-for-iraqi-leather-industry-workers-as-strikes-spread/>.

"2011 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Iraq." UNHCR. International Trade Union Confederation, 08 June 2011. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,ITUC,,IRQ,,4ea66205c,0.html>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Patricia Gutiérrez, 07/10/2012