Arrest Warrants Still in Force on Iraqi Oil Union Leaders – Strike Planned for Monday

This recording is about the plans to privatize oil in Iraq.

From its YouTube text, which is no longer on YouTube:

Oil for Sale: Why the Iraq Study Group is Calling for the Privatization of Iraq’s Oil Industry and why there were no Iraqis in this study group.

Antonia Juhasz, author and activist. Her latest book is “The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time”.

First interviewed by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now), then interviewed by Rob Lorie (RadioActive WMNF).

Both interviews November 7, 2006.

From the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra in Iraq:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Arrest Warrants Still in Force on Iraqi Union Leaders – Strike Planned for Monday



Friday 8th June 2007

The president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), Hassan Juma’a, has informed Naftana at about 3.30 PM London time (Friday 8th June 2007) that the arrest warrants against the leaders of the Federation have not been withdrawn, and he made an urgent appeal toworld trade unionists and the anti-war movement to step up the solidarity campaign with Iraq’s oil workers and trade unionists.

Hassan Juma’a said “the arrest warrants, issued by the prime minister’s office, are still in force, despite the Federation’s decision to postpone the strike till Monday 11th June to allow for further negotiations.”

US jet planes were buzzing the skies of Basra as he spoke to Naftana on the phone.

He added that Iraqi army tanks and other forces were still besieging workers in Sheiba, in Basra governorate, but that the workers will resume the strike on Monday if their demands were not met.

Update 11 June: here.

And here.

1 thought on “Arrest Warrants Still in Force on Iraqi Oil Union Leaders – Strike Planned for Monday


    Iraq’s Workers Strike to Keep Their Oil

    By David Bacon

    t r u t h o u t | Columnist

    Saturday 09 June 2007

    The Bush administration has no love for unions anywhere, but in Iraq it
    has a special reason for hating them. They are the main opposition to the
    occupation’s economic agenda, and the biggest obstacle to that agenda’s
    centerpiece – the privatization of Iraq’s oil. At the same time, unions have
    become the only force in Iraq trying to maintain at least a survival living
    standard for the millions of Iraqis who still have to go to work every day, in
    the middle of the war.

    This week, Iraqi anger over starvation incomes and oil ripoffs boiled
    over. On Monday, June 4, the biggest and strongest of the Iraqi unions, the
    Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, launched a limited strike to underline its call
    for keeping oil in public hands, and to force the government to live up to its
    economic promises. Workers on the pipelines carrying oil from the rigs in the
    south to Baghdad’s big refinery stopped work. It was a very limited job action,
    which still allowed the Iraqi economy to function.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki responded by calling out the army
    and surrounding the strikers at Sheiba, near Basra. Then he issued arrest
    warrants for the union’s leaders. On Wednesday, June 6, the union postponed the
    strike until June 11. Labor unrest could not only resume at that point, but
    could easily escalate into shutdowns on the rigs themselves, or even the cutoff
    of oil exports. That would shut down the income stream that keeps the Maliki
    regime in power in Baghdad.

    Some of the oil workers’ demands reflect the desperate situation of
    workers under the occupation. They want their employer – the government’s oil
    ministry – to pay for wage increases and promised vacations, and give permanent
    status to thousands of temporary employees. In a country where housing has been
    destroyed on a massive scale, and workers often live in dilapidated and
    primitive conditions, the union wants the government to turn over land for
    building homes. Every year, the oil institute has miraculously continued holding
    classes and training technicians, yet the ministry won’t give work to graduates,
    despite the war-torn industry’s desperate need for skilled labor. The union
    demands jobs and a future for these young people.

    But one demand overshadows even these basic needs – renegotiation of the
    oil law that would turn the industry itself over to foreign corporations. And it
    is this demand that has brought out even the US fighter jets, which have circled
    and buzzed over the strikers’ demonstrations. In Iraq, the hostile maneuvering
    of military aircraft is not an idle threat to the people below. This standoff
    reflects a long history of actions in Iraq, by both the Iraqi government and the
    US occupation administration, to suppress union activity.

    Iraq has a long labor history. Union activists, banned and jailed under
    the British and its puppet monarchy, organized a labor movement that was the
    admiration of the Arab world when Iraq became independent after 1958. Saddam
    Hussein later drove its leaders underground, killing and jailing the ones he
    could catch.

    When Saddam fell, Iraqi unionists came out of prison, up from
    underground and back from exile, determined to rebuild its labor movement.
    Miraculously, in the midst of war and bombings, they did. The oil workers union
    in the south is now one of the largest organizations in Iraq, with thousands of
    members on the rigs, pipelines and refineries. The electrical workers union is
    the first national labor organization headed by a woman, Hashmeya Muhsin

    Together with other unions in railroads, hotels, ports, schools and
    factories, they’ve gone on strike, held elections, won wage increases and made
    democracy a living reality. Yet the Bush administration, and the Baghdad
    government it controls, has outlawed collective bargaining, impounded union
    funds and turned its back (or worse) on a wave of assassinations of Iraqi union

    President Bush says he wants democracy, yet he will not accept the one
    political demand that unites Iraqis above all others. They want the country’s
    oil (and its electrical power stations, ports and other key facilities) to
    remain in public hands.

    The fact that Iraqi unions are the strongest voice demanding this makes
    them anathema. Selling the oil off to large corporations is far more important
    to the Bush administration than a paper commitment to the democratic process.

    Iraq’s oil was nationalized in the 1960s, like that of every other
    country in the Middle East. The Iraqi oil union became, and still is, the
    industry’s most zealous guardian.

    Holding a no-bid, sweetheart contract with occupation authorities,
    Halliburton Corporation came into Iraq in the wake of the troops in 2003. The
    company tried to seize control of the wells and rigs, withholding reconstruction
    aid to force workers to submit. The oil union struck for three days that August,
    stopping exports and cutting off government revenue. Halliburton left.

    The oil and port unions then forced foreign corporations to give up
    similar sweetheart agreements in Iraq’s deepwater shipping facilities. Muhsin’s
    electrical union is still battling to stop subcontracting in the power stations
    – a prelude to corporate control.

    The occupation has always had an economic agenda. Occupation czar Paul
    Bremer published lists in Baghdad newspapers of the public enterprises he
    intended to auction off. Arab labor leader Hacene Djemam bitterly observed, “War
    makes privatization easy: first you destroy society; then you let the
    corporations rebuild it.”

    The Bush administration won’t leave Iraq in part because that economic
    agenda is still insecure. Under Washington’s guidance, the Iraqi government
    wrote a new oil law in secret. The Iraq study commission, headed by oilman James
    Baker, called it the key to ending the occupation.

    That law is touted in the US press as ensuring an equitable division of
    oil wealth. Iraqi unions say it will ensure that foreign corporations control
    future exploration and development, in one of the world’s largest reserves.

    Hassan Juma’a Awad, president of the IFOU, wrote a letter to the US
    Congress on May 13. “Everyone knows the oil law doesn’t serve the Iraqi people,”
    he warned. The union was banned from the secret negotiations. According to
    Juma’a, the result “serves Bush, his supporters and foreign companies at the
    expense of the Iraqi people.” The union has threatened to strike if the law is

    Like all Iraqi unionists, Juma’a says the occupation should end without
    demanding Iraq’s oil as a price. “The USA claimed that it came here as a
    liberator, not to control our resources,” he reminded Congress. Congressional
    opponents of the war can only win Iraqis’ respect if they disavow the oil law.

    Whatever government holds power in Baghdad at the occupation’s end will
    need control of the oil wealth to rebuild the devastated country. That gives
    Iraq’s working people a big reason to fight to ensure that happens.

    David Bacon is a California photojournalist who documents labor,
    migration and globalization. His book Communities Without Borders was just
    published by Cornell University/ILR Press.


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