From the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), May 15:
The Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri Al-Maliki, will meet in Baghdad with a delegation of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), led by its President, Hassan Jumaa Awad Alasady, tomorrow, Wednesday, 16 May 2007.
The meeting was hurriedly arranged by the Iraqi Prime Minister in a late attempt to avert threatened strike action that would involve all workers and technicians throughout the oil industry of the South, stopping production in all of the oil companies in Basra, Misan, Thi-Qar and Muthanna and affecting all domestic oil products as well as the export of crude oil. The strike may still take place.
The trade union delegation will return to Basra on Thursday, 17 May, where the union will decide on further steps according to the outcome of the discussions with the Prime Minister.
This is no idle threat. The IFOU, previously known as the GUOE-Basra, has over 26,000 members throughout the ten state oil companies in the south of Iraq and has a past history of strike action in defence of its members and the industry.
The union is also at the forefront of the Iraqi trade union struggle against the proposed hydrocarbons law which, as written, would benefit the multinational oil industry far more than the Iraqi people. Indeed, one demand on the table when the meeting takes place is a call for serious consultations to take place with the trade unions on the present contents of the draft law, and that the trade unions must be able to review any proposed legislation prior to any attempted introduction.
ICEM is following the situation closely and will be calling on affiliated trade unions for solidarity action in the event of a strike.
The strike threat was initially made in a 27 April public letter to the Iraqi Oil Minister, following discussion at the union’s Executive Board meeting with broad member representation the previous day in Basra. The meeting formulated a list of demands and the call for a strike was unanimously adopted if the demands were not met by 10 May 2007.
The strike date was postponed from 10 May to 14 May as the union entered negotiations with a committee formed by the Iraqi Council of Ministers. No direct negotiations with the Oil Ministry took place and a second postponement of the strike was due to the intervention of the Prime Minister, and the ICEM hopes that his decision to meet the union delegation personally will be significant.
The strike call came after numerous demands of the union that the Iraqi government had promised to implement last year had still not been met. Some outstanding commitments are unfulfilled, after having been made several years ago.
Many of the demands are related to wages and working conditions, including a demand for wage increases, the payment of a previously agreed bonus that is based on the distribution to workers of a proportion of oil revenues achieved by the company, no salary deductions to be made for granted vacation days, and the delivery of land parcels for housing to workers.
Further demands are for the recruitment of new graduates, as well as the promotion of workers where this has been stalled. The union also calls for full time permanent status to be given to workers presently classed as temporary contract workers.
Faced with increased pollution in oil facilities and evidence that there is a major increase in the incidence of cancers among the workforce the union has also tabled health and safety demands.
All of these demands and the strike call were discussed by Hassan Jumaa at a meeting in Amman, Jordan, 1 May 2007 with a delegation from ICEM, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) of the United Kingdom, and the Jordan office of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The aim of the meeting was principally to improve communication channels between Hassan Jumaa’s union and the international trade union movement, as well as to discuss future joint work and cooperation.
Discussions were detailed and wide-ranging and we look forward to increased cooperation in the future. This is already happening with Arabic speaking staff of both the ITUC and the Solidarity Center of AFL-CIO having facilitated communication between IFOU and ICEM and the TUC over recent days.
Read the letter by the IFOU to the Iraqi oil minister in English or Arabic.