Urgent Appeal from Iraqi Oil Workers

allwar.jpgFrom US Labor Against the War | We have just received an urgent message from Hassan Juma’a Awad, President of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions. A translation follows below. The action he reports represents a dangerous escalation of the Oil Minister’s hostility to the IFOU and its leadership. Oil Minister Hussein Al-Shahirstani is the same Maliki government official who some months ago directed the management of the oil companies not to have any dealings with the union.

USLAW calls on all its affiliates, members and supporters to immediately send a letter of protest to the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, DC. Some suggested text and the address are provided below.

Here is the translation:

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’a Awad, President
Iraq Federation of Oil Unions

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 // info@uslaboragainstwar.org.

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@iraqmofa.net
URL: http://www.iraqiembassy.us

Mr. Ambassador:

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.

Yours truly,
Learn more about the Iraqi labor movement and labor rights in Iraq.
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