(Reposted from strongerunions.org)

I’m in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) for a TUC workshop for Iraqi and Kurdish trade unionists, and Iraqi Teachers’ Union President Jasim al-Lami has reported an astounding attack on his union’s leadership by the Iraqi Government.

The Iraqi Government has proved itself time and time again to be hostile to free trade unionism, and has been censured by the ILO for its restrictive use of Saddam Hussein’s labour laws.

Now it has demanded that the leadership of the Iraqi Teachers Union – a well organised union with hundreds of thousands of members, which has taken strike action to secure significant pay increases in recent years – hand over the keys to its headquarters along with membership and other records.

The Government wants to force elections on the union (which has already held two leadership elections since 2003), and has told Jasim and his colleagues that they aren’t allowed to stand. If they refuse to do what the Government has told them, they have been threatened with prison terms of 3-5 years, despite having broken no laws.

Jasim was jailed in Abu Ghraib for 6 years under Saddam. He says he is willing to go to jail again to defend his union. To protest, see www.labourstart.org