Ten days ago, a new wave of strikes, sit-ins, and protests by wage and contract workers, demanding an increase in wages and financial allocation of government decision 315 and its implementation, was launched by cleaners at the municipality of Alshamya town in the Diwaniyah governorate in central Iraq. This workers initiative and struggle quickly extended to the water department in this town and in most towns, districts, and the governorate center. In conjunction with this wave, the cities of al Najaf, al Hilla, al Koot, al Nasiriyah and al Basra witnessed protests of wage and contract workers in service sectors; the municipality, water, electricity, and health requesting the implementation of this same decision and ending the deductions from workers and employees’ salaries.
In this new wave of struggle, the workers used their most effective means of struggle, which is the strike from work, which clearly showed the importance and impact of this segment of workers on the overall daily service reality. The striking workers faced, and still face, during this struggle, many tasks, and challenges, such as managing the strike, maintaining the unity of workers, the need to gain public opinion and support of the city dwellers to support their cause and demands.
On Thursday, 2-5-2021, in Baghdad, the capital, workers and contract employees, daily wage workers, and voluntary lecturers from various government institutions and from all governorates, demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Finance building, demanding the implementation of Resolution No. 315. The government security forces subsequently fired bullets at the demonstrators wounding many of them.
For several years, contract workers and daily workers in the electricity, water, health, and other government service institutions have been holding sit-ins and demonstrating almost continuously to fulfill their demands of permanent employment and converting wage workers into contract workers. For more than a year and a half, protests and sit-ins by unemployed engineers, demonstrations of University and polytechnic graduates, holders of higher degrees, voluntary lecturers, contract workers and employees have continued, in Baghdad and the rest of the governorates.
In the Kurdistan Region, protests of workers, employees, and teachers are launched from time to time, and for several years, in the face of non-payment of salaries by the regional government. And their recent demonstrations during December 2020 in Sulaymaniyah governorate turned into an uprising, and as a result, several demonstrators were killed by the security forces of the region’s authorities.
The current labor protests and strikes are taking place amid the escalation of mass night demonstrations in many districts and neighborhoods of Baghdad and in the central and southern governorates of the country against poor services, the tragic consequences of Covid- 19, unemployment, poverty, and miserable living conditions imposed on the majority of the citizens. These protests constitute a qualitative development in the mass political struggle against the authorities and an extension of the October uprising, this time not in the squares, but rather in the neighborhoods and districts where the demonstrators raise the slogan of the departure of the political system.
For more than a decade, the political, social, and economic struggle of workers, the toilers, the female and male unemployed has been developing in Iraq at a rapid pace forward and progressing in an upward direction. What is happening today is an extension of these endeavors and struggles.
The most urgent and necessary task for workers, the toilers, the unemployed at the present time remains, to build an independent mass organization of the workers and unify the ranks of their current struggles within its framework and in a unified manner across the country. It would be difficult for the current mass workers ‘struggle to succeed without uniting the ranks of their struggle and establishing independent mass workers’ organizations, trade unions and networks nationwide that would guarantee the class and political independence of the workers.
Any success that the current strike movement and workers’ protests gain in achieving its demands and imposing them on the authorities constitutes a step forward in the class struggle of workers and the strengthening of their independent political will, and this gain will not only be for the workers in improving their standard of living, but rather an element of aggravation of the crisis of the existing political system, thus, a blow to this entire system and a blow to its corruption and the policy of spending public funds on its repressive political and military projects.
Organization of the Communist Alternative in Iraq strongly condemns the murder of a protester in al Nasiriyah and wounding several lecturers in Baghdad by government security forces and condemns the suppression by these forces of the protests in any form, and holds the government responsible for arresting the perpetrators of these crimes and those behind them.
Organization of the Communist Alternative also stands in solidarity and strives side by side with contract workers, daily wage workers and voluntary lecturers to achieve their goals and demands. And it calls on all emancipatory people and defenders of freedom and the welfare of the masses in Iraq, to show solidarity with the striking workers and protesters to achieve their demands.
Likewise, it appeals to the trade unions and workers federations in the world, the left-wing parties and organizations and all advocates for workers’ rights to show solidarity with the working class in Iraq in its struggle, and to condemn the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government for suppressing the demonstrators and not responding to the just demands of workers, employees and lecturers working for free.
Organization of the Communist Alternative in Iraq