Iraq: workers protest “apartheid-like” conditions at oil fields

The Federation of Workers Councils Unions of Iraq (FWCUI) reports that workers in the Taq Taq Oil Operation Company in Kurdistan, jointly owned by Genel Enerji (Turkish-based) and Addax Petroleum International (a subsidiary of Sinopec), have submitted a complaint against the company over working conditions and a complete lack of equality for Kurdish employees. Workers are concerned at the complete absence of hazard protection on the worksites, where the constant danger of hydrogen sulphide gas is said to threaten employees’ lives. There is also said to be significant discrimination in treatment between the Kurdish and expatriate workers in terms of safety equipment and protective clothing provided, as well as in food and rest facilities. The international chemical workers union ICEM said the scenes described are “reminiscent of the apartheid era in South Africa.” The FWCUI is calling upon the company and the Kurdistan Regional Government to guarantee equal treatment at work. (ICEM, Oct. 10)

ExxonMobil, BP and ENI meanwhile announced they plan to spend around $100 billion to upgrade their three oilfields in southern Iraq. According to the report from the Wall Street Jounal, some $50 billion would be spent to upgrade Exxon’s supergiant West Qurna Phase 1 oilfield, with the remaining $50 billion being spent by BP and Eni to upgrade the Rumaila and Zubair oil fields respectively. (Iraq Business News, Oct. 19) The Rumaila fields have also been the scene of repeated strikes and labor disputes this year over hazardous conditions and the use of foreign workers. (US Labor Against the War, Sept. 13; Iraq Oil Report, May 18)

See our last posts on Iraq and the Kurds, the labor struggle and civil resistance, and the struggle for the oil.

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