For Immediate Release
Sunday July 17th 2005

Iraqi Oil Workers Hold 24-hour Strike - Oil Exports Shut Down


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 most oil exports from the south of Iraq.

The strike is in support of demands made by Basra Governor Mohammad al-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 June 20th when workers at the Basra Oil Refinery staged protest action and a lock 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 to comply. 15 in total are marked for removal.

The Union is also calling for an increase in workers wages. According to the Media and Culture Officer, Faraj Rabat Mizbhan, the basic starting pay for an Iraqi soldier is 700,000 ID (£270) per month whilst a senior oil 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 – currently at the same level as workers employed in offices. Risk payments are allocated to workers working in dangerous locations usually situated far into desert regions.

Union President Hassan Jumaa Awad al Assadi plus members of the executive committee have been involved in negotiations with the Ministry of Oil and Central Government over the past month. The Governor of Basra fully supports the demands of the GUOE.

Negotiations between the Ministry of Oil and Government and Union have resumed in order to avert a full general strike which would involve a further 8,000 union members included in Amara and Nassiriyeh provinces.
Non Union workers have also been known to join GUOE strike action in the past. If the Iraqi government does not agree to the Union’s demands, a general strike will ensue.

Notes

Currently, the Southern oil sector is providing the central and Northern areas of Iraq with the vast majority of it’s’ petroleum, LPG and oil, as well as providing the bulk of oil exports.

The GUOE held its’ first conference on Privatisation this May which ended with a resolution against the privatisation of Iraq’s oil industry, declaring that ‘privatisation of the oil and industrial sectors, or of any part of them, will do great harm to the Iraqi people and their economy’. It also called upon ‘members of Parliament…to take a firm stand against political currents and directives calling for the privatisation of the public sector in Iraq’ and called ‘upon all States to remit the odious debts undertaken by the previous regime, without condition and without infringing the independence, sovereignty and economic 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

Photographs of the recent conference and sites contact: David Bacon dbacon@igc.org 001 510 851 1589

See www.basraoilunion.org for more details