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The struggle of Iraqi oil workers

September 8, 2006 | Page 4

SOME 350 Iraqi oil workers ended a one-day strike August 23 at the state-owned General Company for Oil Lines and Pipes with a government to meet their demands. The strike in the cities of Basra and Nassiriya, besides shutting down oil production, also shut down the main pipeline that supplies oil to other areas of the country, including Baghdad.

The strike was the result of ongoing grievances demanding better working conditions and pay. The oil workers are also demanding pay for overtime work, on-time payment of wages, and ambulances on site at workplaces in the event sick or injured workers need to be transported to hospitals.

Al-Arab Online reported that one union leader, Hassan al-Asadi, said the ministry of oil had sent a document promising a salary increase and a share in seasonal profits. Asadi said that the oil minister agreed to meet with a union delegation within 48 hours. If management doesn't address the grievances, the oil workers were prepared to resume the strike.

Iraqi unionists have been under attack by U.S. occupation forces and Iraqi authorities since the beginning of the occupation in 2003. On one occasion, Iraqi oil workers faced down a U.S. military force, backed by tanks, that was demanding they take down a picket line.

In Suleimanya, in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, armed gunmen, members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, fired into a crowd of cement workers who were demonstrating to demand reinstatement of fellow workers who had been fired for demanding better working conditions and pay. Thirteen workers were wounded.

The attacks against Iraqi workers are part of a campaign by the U.S. occupation forces and their Iraqi collaborators to create a union-free Iraq to insure maximum corporate profits, and to create a workforce so desperate that they'll work at low pay and poor conditions. The fight of Iraqi workers is the fight of all workers, and should be supported by workers here at home and around the world.
Ken Morgan, Madison, Wis.

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