The following was sent to me on 5 June 2008 by the UK group Hands Off Iraqi Oil (www.handsoffiraqioil.org) which opposes the privatisation of Iraq’s oil assets.
Urgent appeal for action from Iraqi oil workers
Leader of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions Hassan Jumaa Awad has sent the following message urging action against the decision of the Iraqi Oil Minister to transfer 8 union activists - a move which has been defined as ‘a human rights crime’. This marks an escalation in repression against the Union which is a potent anti-occupation and anti-privatisation force in Iraq. This comes at a time when serious military, economic and political pressure is being exerted by occupying powers for the ratification of the Oil Law. More moves such as this can be expected and must therefore be resisted now.
US Labor Against War have written a model letter (see below). US and UK embassy details are below and a press release from Naftana, the UK support committee for the union in the UK is to follow soon. Please forward this email and contact your union branches and local anti-war groups to pass urgent motions of solidarity. Copies of emails sent to the embassy and of support for the union in the UK should be sent to: naftana[AT]naftana.org
From Hassan Jumaa Awad:
The Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussein Al-Shahirstani, has ordered the transfer of eight Oil Union activists. They used to work at the oil refineries in the south. This act reflects the minister’s anti-union policy, and lack of respect for unions and union activists in the oil sector. Those activists, through their hard work, are well known for fighting corruption and corrupt-ministry gangs in the oil sector.
They have been transferred to Baghdad Al-Dorah neighborhood (known for worsening security situation, and high level of sectarian killings). In the context of Iraqi security situation, such a transfer is rightfully regarded as human rights crime.
We call upon all people of good will in the world to take a stand to denounce these despicable and criminal acts by the Iraqi Oil Ministry against trade unions and their activists. The trade unions have been reestablished and revitalized through the hard work of union activists without any protection from the state, which keeps bragging about democracy. [The Maliki government, taking its lead from the U.S. Occupation Authority, continues to enforce the 1987 Saddam Hussein labor code that prohibits unions and bargaining for workers in the oil sector and all other public enterprises, which constitute 80% of all Iraqi jobs.]
This act is a clear evidence that the Iraqi state seeks to liquidate trade unions in this important Iraqi economic sector, oil. It is important to note that the south is the main source of oil in Iraq. The oil sector there employs more than 39,000 workers. The Iraqi state has no intention of allowing an Oil Trade Union in that sector because it represents a threat to its authority.
We call upon you from all parts of the world to stand with us, for the sake of labor and workers interests.
Hassan Juma Awad, President
Iraq Federation of Oil Unions
Draft letter by US Labor Against War
Iraqi Embassy in the UK:
- E-mail: lonemb[AT]iraqmofamail.net
- Telephone: +44 207 602 8456
- Fax: +44 207 371 1652
Iraqi Umbassy in the US:
- Post: Samir Sumaida’ie, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, 1801
P Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
- Phone: 202-483-7500
- Fax: 202-462-8813 // 202-462-5066
- Email: wasemb[AT]iraqmofa.net
- URL: www.iraqiembassy.us
- To assure that your message is received, please send it to both fax
numbers and in or attached to an email message.
- Please send a copy to USLAW, 1718 M Street NW, #153, Washington, DC 20036
We have been informed that Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Al-Shahirstani has ordered the transfer of eight leaders and activists of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions from their long-standing assignments at the South Oil Company in Basra to work in the Al-Dorah neighborhood of Baghdad, known for its worsening security situation and high level of sectarian killings. In doing so, the Minister knowingly exposes these trade unionists to a heightened risk of injury or even death. As such, this decision constitutes a grave violation of these workers’ human rights, as well as an assault on their labor rights and the rights of all those workers who they represent in their capacity as IFOU leaders.
This action escalates the Iraqi government’s continuing, repeated and blatant violations of internationally recognized labor rights as enshrined in the Conventions of the International Labour Organization of the United Nations, including those to which Iraq is a signatory. Iraq continues to enforce the dictatorship era labor codes that ban unions and collective bargaining for public sector and public enterprise employees in clear violation of ILO conventions. Iraq has failed to adopt a basic labor law (as called for by its own Constitution) to protect the rights of all workers to free association, to form unions of their own choosing, to negotiate the terms and conditions of their labor, and to strike when necessary in defense of their interests.
We soundly and most strongly condemn these gross violations of labor and human rights. No democracy can ever be established in Iraq unless and until its workers enjoy the full range of core labor rights recognized by the ILO. No democracy can ever be sustained in Iraq without its workers and their unions being free of government intervention in their internal affairs.
Iraq must completely erase all vestiges of its authoritarian and repressive past if it is to earn the respect of the world community. We demand that your government immediately rescind the transfer order for these workers, cease harassing unions and union activists, and that it recognize and respect the rights of all Iraqi workers to form unions of their own choosing, to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment, and to act collectively in defense of their own interests.
We intend to monitor this situation closely to learn what actions you have taken to remedy these gross violations of labor and human rights.