For Immediate Release
Sunday July 17th 2005
15,000 Southern Oil Company workers from the General Union of Oil Employees — Iraq's largest independent union — began a 24-hour strike today, cutting jost oil exports from the south of Iraq.
The strike is in support of demands made by Basra Governor Mohammadal-Waili — reflective of the wishes of the vast majority of Basra's residents — for a higher percentage of Southern Oil revenue to be ploughed back into Basra's local economy. Basra's sewage system,electricity grid and medical services are still damaged and running at limited capacity. Despite being the capital of Iraq's oil reserves, the governorate is still struggling with entrenched poverty, malnutrition and an unemployment rate of 40%.
The GUOE has been involved in an industrial dispute with the Southern Oil Company administration, Ministry of Oil and Government since June20th when workers at the Basra Oil Refinery staged protest action and alock out. The Union is demanding the removal of high ranking Baathist managers in the SOC and regime loyalists serving in the Ministry of Oil.The Union has given the Ministry of Oil until January 1st 2006 tocomply. 15 in total are marked for removal.
The Union is also calling for an increase in workers wages. According tothe Media and Culture Officer, Faraj Rabat Mizbhan, the basic startingpay for an Iraqi soldier is 700,000 ID (£270) per month whilst a senioroil worker with 30 years service is being paid on average 400,000 ID(£150). The Union is also calling for land allowances for workers — currently a provision limited to high ranking managers.
The Union is also calling for an increase in risk payments — currentlyat the same level as workers employed in offices. Risk payments areallocated to workers working in dangerous locations usually situated farinto desert regions.
Union President Hassan Jumaa Awad al Assadi plus members of theexecutive committee have been involved in negotiations with the Ministryof Oil and Central Government over the past month. The Governor of Basrafully supports the demands of the GUOE.
Negotiations between the Ministry of Oil and Government and Union haveresumed in order to avert a full general strike which would involve afurther 8,000 union members included in Amara and Nassiriyeh provinces.Non Union workers have also been known to join GUOE strike action in thepast. If the Iraqi government does not agree to the Union's demands, ageneral strike will ensue.
Currently, the Southern oil sector is providing the central and Northernareas of Iraq with the vast majority of it's' petroleum, LPG and oil, aswell as providing the bulk of oil exports.
The GUOE held its first conference on Privatisation this May whichended with a resolution against the privatisation of Iraq's oilindustry, declaring that 'privatisation of the oil and industrialsectors, or of any part of them, will do great harm to the Iraqi peopleand their economy'. It also called upon 'members of Parliament.to take afirm stand against political currents and directives calling for theprivatisation of the public sector in Iraq' and called 'upon all States to remit the odious debts undertaken by the previous regime, withoutcondition and without infringing the independence, sovereignty andeconomic self-governance of Iraq'. (Final Conference Communiqué May 25, 2005)
For further information please contact:
Faraj Rabat Mizbhan, Responsible for Culture and Media, GUOE, 00964 7801 393 137 (Arabic only)
Nafutna — UK Support Committee for the General Union of Oil Employees
Ewa Jasiewicz, (0044) 07749 421 576 or Munir Chalabi, (0044) 7952 683 415