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Trade union boost as NUJ man Lezard visits Iraq

Former regional press man and trade union campaigner Tim Lezard will fly to Iraq this week to meet workers setting up their own unions.

Tim, (36), who has just retired as National Union of Journalists president, will join a mostly British delegation of politicians and senior trade union officials for the ten day trip.

The trip follows his outspoken attacks on the war in Iraq, most recently at a Media Workers Against the War rally in London at the beginning of this month, when he claimed that no amount of “spin” from journalists could turn the war into a success.

The group will spend a week in Erbil, north of Baghdad, to meet President and Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani, together with workers struggling to form trade unions in the aftermath of the war.

Other trade unionists plan to travel from Baghdad to meet the UK delegation.

Tim said: “Trade unionists were among the most vocal opponents of Saddam Hussein and many of them suffered for their beliefs, spending many years being tortures and languishing in his jails.

“The point of our trip is to make contact with fellow trade unionists and express solidarity with them whilst learning how we can help them, whether it’s providing them with equipment or training to support their fledgling movement.

“Trade unions play a key role in any civil society and Iraq is no different.”

Tim was a reporter for the Gazette series in Gloucester from 1988 to 1992, before becoming a freelance journalist in Bristol, later moving back to the Gazette as reporter, chief reporter and news editor.

He joined Newscom’s weekly titles based in Newport as a sub-editor in 1999, moving to the Gloucestershire Echo and later the Gloucester Citizen, becoming health reporter.

His work with the NUJ has covered his time in Gloucestershire and he has also spent time on the national executive and on ethics council representing regional newspapers.

The union has been one of the most consistent voices against the war since the invasion in 2003, believing it to be an immoral and illegal crusade.

Writing for the Socialist Worker this month, he said: “NUJ members are working tirelessly to report the truth and to hold power to account, to make sure the reality of the Iraq war never fades from people’s minds.

“From the lies that led us to war to the profiteering that continues throughout the war to the attempts to airbrush the dead, the homeless, the injured and disabled from history.”

The area his delegation is going to is one of the safest but the trip still poses some risk.

Tim said: “As a self-rule province, Kurdistan is Iraq’s most stable region, although we’re taking no risks with security because we’ll be accompanied by armed bodyguards everywhere we go and we’ll be travelling in armoured 4x4s.”