As efforts to secure lucrative oil privatisation contracts in Iraq for multinational companies progress, so does the resistance.
Read on for more...
An all-out strike, scheduled for Thursday 10th May over the controversial Oil Law, has been postponed until Monday, May 14th, for negotiations to take place. The Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), which believes the negotiations to be in good faith, has been campaigning for involvement in the law drafting process and for a full public consultation to take place over the law which will decide how Iraq’s oil industry – accounting for 95% of government revenue – will be developed.
The oil law proposes giving multinational companies the primary role in developing Iraq's huge untapped oilfields, under contracts lasting up to 30 years. Oil production in Iraq, like in most of the Middle East, has been in the public sector since the 1970s.
The IFOU, representing 26,000 oil workers, has held three previous strikes since 2003, each time stopping exports, for up to two days at a time. This strike similarly threatens to stop all exports from the oil rich country.
Federation President Hassan Jumaa Awad al-Assadi said: 'The oil law does not represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people. It will let the foreign oil companies into the oil sector and enact privatisation under so called production sharing agreements. The federation calls for not passing the oil law, because it does not serve the interests of the Iraqi people."
The Union is not alone in its condemnation of the current oil law. Opponents of the law also include all of Iraq's other trade unions, a number of political parties, and a group of over 60 senior Iraqi oil experts. But such resistance has a cost. Union leaders have already received a number of death threats which they are taking seriously. "As soon as the federation called for the strike, many of our members and officials were physically threatened by parties active in the political process, with the aim of thwarting the strike and undermining the message of the strike organisers." The Ministry of Oil has also threatened to take legal action against the union. The strikers risk massive repression for taking such drastic action.
Hassan Jumaa went on to say: "The federation calls on all unions in the world to support our demands and to put pressure on governments and the oil companies not to enter the Iraqi oil fields."
The strike also aims to address longstanding demands for workers rights. These includes restoration of a bonus payment roughly equivalent to a 13th month's salary, land for homes, decent health and safety provisions including personal protective equipment in all workplaces, and a coherent system of salary calculation and payment.
The Hands Off Iraqi Oil coalition has recently formed to campaign in solidarity against the rip off of Iraq's resources by multinational companies. We are encouraging supporters to take action here in the UK as UK companies and the UK government have taken leading roles in conducting this grab for corporate control over Iraq's most precious resource. Here you can find a model Trade Union motion to take to your union branch to call for their support. There has also been an a Early day Motion (a kind of parliamentary petition) tabled in parliament - please write to your MP encouraging them to sign it. Find your MP and email or write to them at theyworkforyou.com.
Hands Off Iraqi Oil is also holding a protest outside Shell's Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 15th May. Please join us to show your solidarity and to oppose the corporate takeover of Iraqi oil.
Meanwhile, emails and faxes supporting the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions in their right to collectively bargain and expressing concern over alleged threats of legal action and death threats would be appreciated.
Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki Minister of Oil, Dr Hussein al Sharastani C/O Embassy of the Republic of Iraq 169 Knightsbridge London SW7 1DW Phone: (020) 7581 2264 Fax: (020) 7589 3356 Telephone: +44 207 602 8456 Fax: +44 207 371 1652 E-mail: email@example.com Dear Mr Maliki Dear Dr Hussein al Sharastani I am writing to express support for the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions in their right to take industrial action over issues relating to their members' economic and social welfare. I am also concerned that the union has recieved death threats for deciding to take strike action and that the authorities have also threatened legal action. I trust that the Union will not be penalised for taking action which is legal according to the Iraqi constiution and a fundamental trade union freedom recognised all over the world. The Union has repeatedly asked for involvement in the drafting of the Hydrocarbon Law but has been ignored. Iraqi civil society should be involved in the decision making process over the future of the Iraqi economy - this includes trade unions. I will be monitoring the forthcoming news from the union and would like assurance that union members will not be harmed or punished for their actions. Yours Sincerely, .....
For more information about the campaign visit www.HandsOffIraqiOil.org If you would like to sign up to our low-volume email alert list for news updates and events, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org