HM Government doesn't want us to hear voice of Iraqi oilworkers
IRAQI oil workers' leader Hassan Juma'a Awwad is due in London next week. He could expect a warm welcome from British trades unionists and anti-war campaigners, who will be keen to hear how the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions is maintaining workers' unity amidst the conflict and chaos of occupation, and resisting plans to carve up the Iraqi people's oil between Western oil companies.
Earlier this month the southern oil company workers around Basra came out on strike, only to find themselves surrounded by Iraqi government troops. Arrest warrants were out for Hassan and other union leaders.
Trades unionists in other countries were alerted, and made their protests. My local trades union council promptly e-mailed the Iraqi embassy, and so did larger bodies like the Trades Union Congress and the Italian Federation of Oil and Chemical Workers, as well as US trades unionists.
On Monday, June 11, 2007, Naftana(Our Oil), the UK support group for the Iraqi oil unions, thanked those who had protested, and reported that the Iraqi government had apparently turned about, agreeing to negotiate, and the union was claiming a tactical victory. Naftana relayed this message from Hassan Juma'a:
We would like to inform you of the latest developments in the oil workers strike in the south.Finally the workers have won in demanding their legitimate rights. That is why an enlarged meeting was held with his excellency the Minister of State for the Parliament Affairs lasting five hours resulting in the cessation of all the failings resulting from the conduct of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and the irresponsible stance of the oil minister. Most of the issues within the remit of the prime minister were dealt with. The meeting was very successful, because the minister represented the prime minister. The activation of the committee formed by the prime minister to deal with the outstanding problems was affirmed. And after deliberations within our union, the two sides agreed to halt the strike and to use dialogue in dealings to resolve the outstanding issues.
On the other hand, all problems were presented to His Eminence Sayyid Sistani, and the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. Therefore, we would like to say to all that the workers will is indestructible . The workers can achieve what they want by the means available to them and their strength. And the oil workers are very strong, because they have a legitimate right. the workers have scored a third victory in demanding their rights.
Long live the Iraqi working class.
Regards, Hassan Juma'a Awwad'
As I said at the beginning, Hassan Juma'a should be in London next week.
He has been invited to speak at the Socialist Workers' Party's annual Marxism event, which usually attracts a large crowd, and he would also be meeting other trades unionists. Yesterday I was in touch with a couple of friends involved in preparing the founding conference on July 14th of a national Shop Stewards Network, which is backed by the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union RMT and drawing support from a wide range of trades unionists.
When I mentioned that Hassan Juma'a was due in town they readily agreed it would be good if he could speak at their conference. The organising committee is due to meet and finalise its plans on Saturday.
Unfortunately, as I also had to tell the brothers, it now looks as though Hassan Juma'a may not be able to come to London next week, thanks to the attitude of Her Britannic Majesty's Government and specifically, "our" embassy in Amman which has been refusing to give the oil workers' leader a visa. Two Labour MPs, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, attempted to intercede on his behalf, but it seems they couldn't budge the embassy.
Hassan has been to this country before. He received a rapturous response when he addressed Stop the War delegates. He took part in a conference at the TUC, and a teach-in arranged by Iraq Occupation Focus. There is no question of the British government's not knowing who this Iraqi is - we can be sure the Foreign and Commonwealth Office knows exactly who he is! Remember, Basra and its oilfields are in the British zone of occupation.
We can guess that besides British companies hoping to profit from Iraqi oil in future, the British government is not happy with meetings between Iraqi and British trades unionists, whether they are talking about ending the war and occupation, or discussing "tactical victories" against anti-union laws and privatisation. Hopefully, if Hassan Juma'a can't speak in London next week then we will have something to say about those preventing him. From protesting to the Iraqi embassy over the treatment of trades unionists, we (most of whose unions supported Gordon Brown for Labour leadership) must turn our fire on the British government.
Some useful places to visit:
Iraqi oil workers:
US Labor Against the War
Iraq Occupation Focus
Radical Activists' Network:
Iraq Union Solidarity Scotland
International Longshoremen's and Warehouse Union:
National Shop Stewards Network: