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Developing the Skills of Young Iraqi Trade Unionists

During the transition phase that Iraq is witnessing today, it is of upmost importance to support and strengthen civil society organisations in the country in order to enhance their capacity to play a more effective role in the democratisation and reconstruction process underway.

In 2004, WFD funded UNISON, the British public service union, to conduct a pilot project which brought six young Iraqi trade union activists to Britain to learn about British trade unionism and develop their own capacities. Participants were selected according to criteria set out by UNISON in co-operation with the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions. They included two female unionists and all were elected members of the national executives of their respective unions. The Agricultural Workers’ Union, the Service Workers’ Union, the Transport and Communications Workers’ Union and the Railway Workers’ Union were represented.

The participants were given an insight into British trade unionism and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the role of trade unions in society and their relations with politics and political parties. Strong emphasis was placed on the democratic structures, from the national to the regional level, and on how these structures are used to promote women, members of ethnic minorities and other minority groups. The participants received negotiation skills training within the context of representing members’ interests at the local union representative level. Further training on organising membership recruitment and information dissemination was accompanied by a visit to regional offices and, for the female participants, the Scottish TUC Women’s Conference.

The pilot project helped to strengthen the current and future generation of young Iraqi trade unionists. Most noticeably, a sense of solidarity was established between UK and Iraqi representatives, particularly when common issues were identified. Both parties recognised the value of the initiative as a precursor for a wider programme of engagement.

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