Iraqi Trade Unionists Targeted by Oil Ministry Need Support
June 9, 2012
US Labor Against War
Iraqi workers at the Maysan (Missan) Oil Company * organized a demonstration to demand their rights and to protest management corruption and abuse.** The workers had received permission to conduct the demonstration which was militant but entirely peaceful and then were punished for doing so. The Oil Ministry responded with warnings, reprimands, demotions, and reductions in compensation affecting 26 workers and three union officers.
Iraqi Trade Unionists Targeted by
Oil Ministry Need Support
(June 6, 2012) -- Iraqi workers at the Maysan (Missan) Oil Company * organized a demonstration to demand their rights and to protest management corruption and abuse.** The workers had received permission to conduct the demonstration which was militant but entirely peaceful and then were punished for doing so.
The Oil Ministry responded with warnings, reprimands, demotions, and reductions in compensation affecting 26 workers and 3 union officers, including Hassan Juma'a Awad, President of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions, who was demoted, put on probation for three years and suffered a $700/month cut in compensation.
Hassan Juma'a was not even present at the protest, but was held responsible for "inciting" the workers. All were informed that further actions would lead to even more severe penalties.
The workers had a right to collectively act according to ILO conventions to which Iraq is a signatory. But threats, harassment, discrimination, forced transfers and other retaliatory punishment have been the order of the day since the U.S. invaded more than 9 years ago.
The U.S.-run "Occupation Authority" and Iraqi government have continued to enforce a repressive 1987 law instituted by Saddam Hussein which banned unions and collective bargaining in the public sector and public enterprises, including the entire oil industry (80-90% of the Iraqi economy). [The "democracy" promised to Iraqis by the Bush administration apparently did not include labor rights or workers.]
Leading up to and since the end of the U.S. military occupation, the al Maliki regime has escalated the level of repression against workers seeking to exercise rights promised by the new Iraqi constitution and international law.
A new draft labor law submitted to the parliament perpetuates the disenfranchisement of public workers and, like Saddam Hussein's law, will serve as an instrument to control and discipline rather than liberate workers.
* Weatherford, an American Company was awarded a contract in 2009 by Maysan Oil Company to drill 20 oil wells in Iraq. [source]
** Not long after the demonstration for which these workers were disciplined, the Oil Ministry fired the Director General of Maysan Oil Co. for the very causes that the workers had charged, among other reasons. [source]
Like workers all across North Africa, Iraqi workers are not about to silently accept the status quo. They are organizing and fighting back, and need our solidarity.
USLAW, Solidarity Center and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mining and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) have joined with Labourstart, the international internet-based labor solidarity network, to launch an international campaign to demand that this unjust punishment be reversed and worker rights in Iraq be respected.
EXPRESS YOUR SOLIDARITY WITH
THESE IRAQI WORKERS AND THEIR UNION
ACTION"Tell the Iraqi government to respect worker rights.
End Harassment of Oil Union Activists
ACTION: LabourStart Campaigns
ICEM -- In partnership with the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions [ICEM, a global union federation representing some 20 million workers.
Iraqi government agencies frequently interfere with internal union affairs, punishing union activists by imposing forced transfers, demotions, fines, travel restrictions, and other penalties allowed by Iraq's labor law, which dates from the Saddam Hussein regime, as well as the law governing state employees. The suppression of worker rights has been most severe in the oil sector, where the Oil Ministry has worked hand in hand with the oil companies to enforce these punishments.
This harsh approach is evident in the April 17, 2011, arrests of 26 workers at the Maysan Oil Company in southern Iraq who were peacefully demonstrating against corporate corruption. Even though they had received advance permission to hold their demonstration, a Ministry of Oil investigation led to the reprimand of eight workers and a warning to 18 others.
All 26 were instructed that further actions would lead to greater penalties being applied against them. Individual letters sent by the company on December 13, 2011, essentially stated that the workers’ livelihoods would be jeopardized if they continued to engage in such activity.
Additionally, Abdul Kareem Abdul Sada, vice president of the General Federation of Trade Unions and Workers’ Councils of Iraq (GFTUWCI)–Basra Branch, received a reprimand and six-month suspension of his salary bonus, in accordance with recommendations made by investigative committee No. 1129 on January 11, 2012.
Hassan Juma’a Awwad, president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), received a three-year grade demotion; Adel Abood, a board member of the southern oil union of the IFOU and member of the IFOU assembly board, received multiple written reprimands; and Abdul Khaliq Naser, a member of the GFTUWCI Oil union, received a warning letter, based on the recommendations of the same investigative committee. All were accused of “inciting unrest.”
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