Thursday, May 10, 2007

Iraqi Union Set to Strike over Oil Law

UPDATE - Apparently the strike deadline has now been moved until Monday May 14th.

Iraq’s largest oil workers’ trade union will strike tomorrow, in protest at the controversial oil law currently being considered by the Iraqi parliament. The move threatens to stop all oil exports from Iraq.

The oil law proposes giving multinational companies the primary role in developing Iraq’s huge untapped oilfields, under contracts lasting up to 30 years. Oil production in Iraq, like in most of the Middle East, has been in the public sector since the 1970s.

The Union, representing 26,000 oil workers, has held three previous
strikes since 2003, each time stopping exports, for up to two days at a
time. The announcement of the strike has spurred negotiations with the
Ministry of Oil, which are ongoing.

Imad Abdul-Hussain, Federation Deputy Chair of the IFOU said: “The
central government must be in total ownership and complete control of
production and the export of oil”. He warned against the controversial
Production Sharing Agreements favored by foreign companies, saying
other forms of co-operation with foreign companies would be acceptable
but not at the level of control and profiteering indicated in the
current Oil Law.

Federation President Hassan Jumaa Awad al Assadi said: ‘The oil law does
not represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people. It will let the
foreign oil companies into the oil sector and enact privatisation under
so called production sharing agreements. The federation calls for not
passing the oil law, because it does not serve the interests of the
Iraqi people.”

The Union is not alone in its’ condemnation of the current oil law.
Opponents of the law also include all of Iraq’s other trade unions, a
number of political parties, and a group of over 60 senior Iraqi oil

Hassan Jumaa went on to say: “The federation calls on all unions in the
world to support our demands and to put pressure on governments and the
oil companies not to enter the Iraqi oil fields.”

Union members are also demanding an improved salary structure and a
distribution of land for building homes.

Instead of the union’s participation being welcomed, leaders have been
accused of jeopardizing security and threatened with legal action.

Farouq Al-Asadi, the Federation’s Secretary said: ‘The Oil Minister
chooses to forget that the right to strike is guaranteed by the
constitution - we have chosen the legal path’.

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