Dave Barnes TSSA | 14.10.2003 15:38 | Workers' Movements
Delegation with Union reps
Our delegation accompanied by the general secretary of the Iraqi fedaration of Trade Unions arrived at the Oil refinary unannounced.
Security is high with Iraqi Police and refinary security overseen by US soldiers who remain in their bunker.
Permission to enter the refinary is gained and within 2o minutes all bar one of the unions committee have assembled to greet us.
They describe how the old Saddam union was swept aside and their new democratic union was formed; a mass meeting of some 2000 workers (out of 3150) approved the formation of the committee and elections followed for the formation of 8 branches including 38 branch officials.
The newly elected President of the Union explained to us the issues that they face the main one being the wage differances ranging from $60-120.00 a month.
The previous day the Union held a demonstration on the site to call for higher salaries for the office staff. The blue collar workers joined the demonstration in solidarity. The result was a meeting with the minister for oil to resolve the dispute within 24 hours of the protest. *
At the end end of the the meeting we had a chance to meet the refinary workers including the refinary firefighters.
These firefighters unlike the civil service are not conected to the Police. Their equipment was even more inadequate, they were expected to carry out maintenance work on the site. The injuries many workers had suffered went without compensation or support. No pensions, no safety precautions and crushingly low wages. It seems only a matter of time before these workers realise the power of their Labour and improve their conditions.
*We asked if they would consider industrial action to win higher wages. The veiws were united, there is a healthy debate between those who fear the cost to the Iraqi people of stopping production and those that see strike action as the way to win. Action seems like only a matter of time.
Dave Barnes TSSA