Union busting, Iraqi style

As well as hating direct elections, it appears that in at least another key area Bush thinks that Saddam got it right -- anti-trade union laws. Nearly a year after the "liberation" of Iraq, the Saddam's decree on banning unions is still on the books -- and energetically enforced.

This year saw U.S. troops arresting several leaders of the Iraqi Workers Federation of Trade Unions and trashing their headquarters. The trade unionists were released after a day, but the sign is clear. The occupying powers are repressing attempts by Iraqi workers to improve their situation. It should be noted that a series of privatizations are coming up.

With "liberation," many workers assumed that they could organise themselves and did so. The American occupation authority ruled that Saddam's law was still in effect. So, it is an legitimate use of power to privatise whole industries but it is pre-empting the new government to legalise trade unions?

Whatever the rationale, the results are clear. Not only does it keep Iraqi wages at a low level, it also weakens opposition to the planned sell-off of state-owned Iraq industries. Given that the chance of Iraqis being able to buy these businesses is slight, this will inevitably involve foreign (i.e. American) corporations buying them at knockdown prices. Since a strong labour movement could resist this, the coalition's use of Saddam's labour laws comes as no surprise.

Moreover, if unions can legally function they would grow and become a threat to this and any future government. The American and British elites cannot have the Iraqis actually having a say in their countries affairs beyond the approved "cross on the bit of paper for the rich person of your choice" every 4 or 5 years. US and UK workers are not expected to do this, so why should anyone else?

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