Saddam Hussein's law used against oil union
SADDAM Hussein may be dead, but the regime which executed him is still making use of his laws to curb trade union activity. Its particular target is the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, whose president Hassan Juma'a was recently in Britain meeting trade unionists and anti-war activists.
The unions have united workers from Kirkuk in the north to Basra in the south, and brought workers' representatives together with oil industry experts to oppose the new US-drafted Hydrocarbons Law that would hand Iraq's resources over to foreign companies. "Iraqi oil for the Iraqi people!" is their slogan.
Having kept their industry running despite the effects of sanctions, war and invasion, the oil workers have had to face off occupying troops, interference with union funds, and threats to send in the Iraqi army and arrest workers' leaders when they took strike action earlier this year. They achieved a tactical victory when the minister agreed to negotiate with them, but the fight goes on, as this press release from the UK-based support group Naftana (Our Oil) makes clear:
Thursday 2nd August 2007
Iraqi Oil Minister Enforces Saddam law on Trades Unions
In a disturbing development, the Iraqi Oil Minister, Mr. Hussein Shahrastani, has effectively ordered his ministry to apply a 1987 law issued under Saddam to ban the 26,000 member Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU). This is the clear meaning of the Ministry directive couched in terms of merely applying an earlier instruction not to recognize unregistered NGOS. A copy of the ministry’s directive was obtained by the union and sent to Naftana*.
The directive, dated 18 July 2007, states: ‘The minister has directed that all members of all unions be banned from participating in any committee if they use their union identification, since these unions have no legal status to work within the state sector. They should not be permitted to use the offices and equipment of the [ministry’s] companies, because they do not have legal status within the state sectors.’
All necessary measures should be taken to implement the minister’s directive within a maximum of two weeks, it concluded.
In a message to Naftana, the union’s president, Hassan Juma`a, affirmed that the union would not recognize the minister’s decision, stressing that the oil minister has been fighting against trade union work because of the patriotic stands of the IFOU. “We are working for Iraq," he declared. In flagrant violation of the principle of free association, the governments since occupation have continued to treat all trade unions as illegal, until such time as a ‘legal framework is enacted’.
Thus the Oil Minister’s directive follows US Administrator L Paul Bremer’s Public Notice Regarding Organization in the Workplace, issued on June 6 2003, which upheld Saddam’s infamous decree 150 of 1987 that banned all trade union activity by deeming workers in the state sectors to be ‘civil servants’ without the right to organize.
It should be remembered that, in spite of strenuous efforts by the occupying powers to privatize the Iraqi economy, the overwhelming majority of Iraq's industrial workers belong to the state sector. Last year the government froze the assets and bank accounts of the oil workers’ union along with that of all other unions. The minister’s new directive is seen by the union as a pre-emptive measure to weaken the union’s highly successful campaign against the proposed oil law, which was instigated and is being imposed on Iraq by the occupation governments.
The proposed law, popularly known in Iraq as the ‘thieves’ law’, has attracted the hostility of Iraqi workers and technical oil experts alike. Popular opposition is such that the government has failed to meet several deadlines laid down for it by the Bush administration and US Congress to enact the law. We call on all trade unions and supporters of democratic rights to protest the Iraqi government’s dictatorial measures and to support the IFOU and Iraq’s workers in their struggle for freedom and democracy.
Naftana (‘Our Oil’ in Arabic) is an independent UK-based committee supporting democratic trade unionism in Iraq. It works in solidarity with the IFOU. It strives to publicise the union’s struggle for Iraqi social and economic rights and its stand against the privatisation of Iraqi oil demanded by the occupying powers. For more information see the IFOU’s website: http://www.basraoilunion.org"