Iraqi oil workers strike against privatisation
IRAQI oil workers are to strike against the new oil law being pushed through the country's parliament. Drawn up in English before it could be translated for the MPs, the legislation has the hallmark of American consultants close to the US State Department. Oil experts were shocked by the way it mortgaged future oil production from fields yet to be developed, while leaving the Western oil companies free to do nothing for now.
Workers whose hard work and make-and-mend ingenuity kept their industry going despite sanctions and war say they don't need the foreign companies. Their union says Iraqi oil belongs to the Iraqi people, and they oppose privatisation and foreign exploitation.
More than 60 Iraqi experts signed a petition against the new oil law in March this year. An Iraqi MP attending the conference held in Amman, Jordan, said: "This law must be rejected as whole, there is no way it can be enhanced or fixed."
See article by Raed Jarrer http://electroniciraq.net/news/3053.shtml
Iraqi political analyst Munir Chalabi has warned that the big oil companies, the US and British governments, and the IMF "will not be able to enforce an oil law which seems to be no less than the old concessionary model in a new guise".
Pointing to the failure of the occupying powers to impose their order despite all the deaths and destruction they have wreaked, Munir also reminds us that under international law, occupying forces have no right to impose laws against the interests of the occupied people. Any future elected parliament can declare them null and void.
Now over to a special correspondent who explains more: (switch on control in bottom left corner)
News that the oil workers will stage a strike against privatisation comes in a week when representatives of big oil companies like BP, Shell, Exxon and Texaco are due to meet Iraqi government officials, in the relative safety of Beirut.
Here is the news from friends of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions:
Iraqi Oil Workers to Strike Over Privatisation Law
Iraq's largest oil workers' trade union will strike this Thursday, in protest at the controversial oil law currently being considered by the Iraqi parliament. The move threatens to stop all exports from the oil-rich country.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 Union, representing 26,000 oil workers, has held three previous strikes since 2003, each time stopping exports, for up to two days at a time. The announcement of the strike has spurred negotiations with the Ministry of Oil, which are ongoing. Imad Abdul-Hussain, Federation Deputy Chair of the IFOU said: "The central government must be in total ownership and complete control of production and the export of oil".
He warned against the controversial Production Sharing Agreements favoured by foreign companies, saying other forms of co-operation with foreign companies would be acceptable but not at the level of control and profiteering indicated in the current Oil Law.
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.
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. "
Union members are also demanding an improved salary structure and a distribution of land for building homes.
The oil union's responsible attitude in defending their industry and the public interest, and campaigning by democratic means, has not been welcomed by those serving the occupiers while pretending to govern Iraq. The union has already suffered from the continuation of labour laws inherited from Saddam Hussein, and interference with its rights to organise and raise funds. Now it has been accused of jeopardizing security and threatened with legal action.
Farouq Al-Asadi, the Federation's Secretary said: 'The Oil Minister chooses to forget that the right to strike is guaranteed by the constitution - we have chosen the legal path'. 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."
Contacts: Hassan Jumaa Awad Al Assadi, President of the Iraqi Federation of OilUnions 00964 7801 001 196 or 00964 7804 114 619
Notes from Naftana:
IFOU is an independent trade union representing workers across 4southern provinces in Iraq: Misan, Dhi Qar, Basra and Mauthanna in nine oil and gas related companies.The Union has been organizing since April 2003 and has stopped oil exports and production over wages and workers rights in the past. It has also held protests against oil smuggling, former regime bosses and what the union sees as the deliberate neglect and degradation of the industry in order to justify private investment.
Union members have carried out reconstruction work on drilling rigs, port equipment, pipelines and refineries since the invasion with minimal, mostly local resources. The Union is not linked to any political party in Iraq but has members who belong to various parties. The Union enjoys the support of trade unions and civil society organizations around the world including the International Confederation of Energy, Mining and General Workers Union (ICEM), the AFL-CIO in the US, and the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) in the UK including the NUJ and TGWU. The union is partnered with UK development charity War on Want, the 3 million strong US Labor Against War in the USA, and Italian NGO Un Ponte Per.
For more on Iraqi oil law and privatisation see:
Labour MP Katy Clark has submitted an Early Day Motion about oil in Iraq:
Opponents of Iraqi oil privatisation are planning to take their protest to Shell's AGM on Tuesday May 15:
8.30am - 12 noon
Novotel London-West Hotel and Convention Centre,
Hammersmith, London W6 8DR
(Nearest tube - Hammersmith)
In my view, Iraqi workers need their own political party, to unite the working people and fight for their viewpoint and interests against big business, for democratic rights and social justice.
That's something we have in common.
Right now they also need international solidarity - especially from those of us in countries whose troops are occupying Iraq and whose oil companies are looking to move in after them.