Over the past years, the Iraqi government has increased its use of temporary and wage workers, and there are now more than 30,000 in the electricity sector. They do the same jobs as permanent workers but in some cases earn half what permanent workers earn, and payment is sometimes delayed. They are also excluded from social security and the pension scheme.
In 2009 temporary workers in the ministry of electricity started their struggle to demand permanent employment and inclusion in social security and the pension scheme. Over several years, the state made promises, but these never materialized.
Unions in Iraq fought against a 2010 ban on unions in the electricity sector, and in 2017 succeeded in their campaign to get Iraq to ratify ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association.
In April 2017, the temporary workers organized themselves into a union with a membership of 3,000. The union joined the General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions, and in December 2017 merged with the General Union of Electricity Workers and Technicians to create the GTUESE.
Many of the temporary workers have not been paid for five months. On 24 February 2018, GTUESE met with the officials of the ministry of electricity and presented workers’ demands. On 15 March, workers led by GTUESE organized demonstrations in 10 different governorates, including Baghdad. On 28 March, GTUESE organized more demonstrations.
In retaliation, the ministry terminated 100 temporary workers the next day, saying they had been absent from work during the demonstration. Many had more than ten years’ service. This is a violation of Iraqi labour law, their employment contract, the Iraqi Constitution and ILO Convention 87.
On 2 April workers began open-ended sit-ins at power stations across the country.
Negotiations with the government are ongoing, led by Hashmeya Alsaadawe, president of Basra Trade Union Federation and IndustriALL executive committee member, and GTUESE president Tahseen Elsaadie. The union demands:
- Permanent employment contracts and inclusion in the social security and pension scheme
- Reinstatement of the workers terminated on 29 March
- Implementation of the Council of Ministers Decree which approved the minimum wage 350,000 Iraqi dinars (US $300).
IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches wrote to the Iraqi Prime Minister and Minister of Electricity, calling for the dismissed workers to be reinstated, and temporary workers to be given permanent contracts. He said:
“IndustriALL Global Union is deeply concerned about serious violations of trade union rights at the Ministry of Electricity. Many of the temporary and wageworkers have not received their salaries in more than five months. Their demands to be given fixed contracts — some employees have been working in the Ministry of Electricity for more than ten years — and be included in the social security and pension scheme have not yet been met.”
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