Putting down a strike with an 'iron fist'?
Iraq government orders arrest of oil workers' leaders
WASHINGTON - JUNE 6 - Iraq’s powerful oil workers’ trade union today expressed alarm as an arrest warrant was issued for its leaders, in an attempt to clamp down on industrial action.
Members of the union have been on strike since Monday 4th June, in protest at the government’s failure to meet any of its promises made in a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on 16th May. The union’s 16 demands included improvements to wages, health and other working and living conditions as well as consultation on the proposed oil law, which the union opposes. The union added a 17th demand yesterday demanding the sacking of the General Manager of the Southern Pipeline Company.
On Tuesday, al-Maliki warned that he would meet threats to oil production “with an iron fist”.
The arrest warrant, based on a charge of “sabotaging the economy” specifically names Hassan Juma’a Awad, the leader of the 26,000-strong Federation of Oil Unions, and three other leaders of the Federation.
Hassan Juma’a commented, “the government is intimidating the union but we are determined to gain our legitimate rights.” He added that the strike would continue in accordance with the union’s plan.
The strike entered its third day today and is in its “second phase,” which now includes the closure of the main distribution pipelines, including supplies to Baghdad. “Phase one” closed some of the smaller distribution pipelines. Phases one and two did not include production and exports.
The union is calling on all its supporters and unions across the world to back the union at this critical juncture. Sami Ramadani from the union’s UK-based support committee, Naftana said: “Issuing a warrant for the arrest of the oil workers’ leaders is an outrageous attack on trade union and democratic freedoms.”
Naftana is an independent UK-based committee supporting democratic trade unionism in Iraq. It works in solidarity with the IFOU. It strives to publicize 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 www.basraoilunion.org