A Call for International Solidarity with Basra Protests
For the 9th consecutive day workers in Basra continue to protests South Oil Company and other oil companies’ hostile workers policies. They have set a protest camp, which has the participation of large numbers of workers from different oil sites. In a wonderful labor phenomenon and a unique experience, the workers continue in support for the sit-in and its activities despite rumors that the Portests carry another agenda, or are driven by political parties. Protest leaders have responded to the rumors and workers continue to visit the camp’s sit-in.
Since mid-February, the oil workers are leading a fierce struggle against the South Oil Company administration and the administrations of the foreign companies such as British Petroleum, American-owned ExxonMobil and the Italian company Eni, and the Chinese Petro-china etc. The struggle has turned into a battle with the government that defends the interests of those companies undermining and criminalizing oil workers. The workers are denouncing the oil ministry and the government for not verifying the workers’ demands, and instead using intimidation to dissuade activists and organizers. These government’s efforts have been confronted by the steel unity of the workers who have promised that any threat to oil workers, will face dire consequences.
Abu Watan, the media spokesperson for the protesters in Basra clarified statements that were according to him misunderstood by the media: “Our attitude of foreign workers who are part of the workers in Iraq is clear and nothing divides us, neither the language nor nationality nor the state from which they came, or they belong. Their suffer is part of our suffering and we are both at the same level of the oil workers or the level of Iraqi workers, we stand up for their rights and fight together, hand in hand against the exploitation and the imposition of harsh working conditions on them. We also consider their struggle for better working conditions and wages is part of our struggle, we, the workers of Iraq.”
Iraq exports more than 80% of the oil through the oil fields in Basra. Foreign companies in agreement with the South Oil Company and the government and through the so-called “oil licensing round” robbed the worker’s rights. The oil licensing rounds refer to the procedure adopted by the Iraqi Government to invite multinational companies to invest on petrol and gas in Iraq, before 2003 there was no such procedure and national companies were the only one working in the oil sector. The workers complaints include: lack of adequate housing, medical care, or education for their children, low wages compared to the cost of living and compared with other oil workers in the region, as well as the absence of the suitable environment or even treatment for the injured due to environmental contamination are not able to get proper treatment, etc.
Foreign companies have many policies that are hostile to workers not less than the policies of the Hussein regime. For example, they try to create competition between foreign workers and Iraqi workers, by bringing technicians and workers from outside Iraq to achieve two goals: first toimpose bad working conditions on Iraqi workers to expand their profits and at all costs, including the prevention of the peaceful protest right in all its forms. The second is to create an intense competition among Iraqi and foreign workers by differentiating their ranks, and guide the blades of Iraqis workers’ struggle to their brethren of foreign workers instead of directing the blades of struggle against the policies of foreign companies.
As a confirmation and example of cohesion of the labor movement, delegations of workers visited the camp including Ali Abbas, the president of the Workers Union Branch in Basra, and donated 450,000 Iraqi dinars on behalf of the union. Additionally, the Chairperson and members of the Communications Union have visited the camp and made donations to support the continuation of the sit-in. The workers’ marched from the camp towards the main gate of the company repeating the slogans that claim the rights of workers. Local and satellite channels and global radio are also covering the sit-ins. The sit continues at night where they are holding sessions looking back on the experience of the international labor movement.
The Committee for the Defense of Oil Workers issued a call for international solidarity from trade and labor unions around the world: “The only forefront for our defense on our struggle to achieve our demands is your solidarity and support. We are confident where you have already stood with our fellow workers who have turned to the courts due to their claim for their rights.”
Long live Internationalist solidarity of workers
Source: Committee for the Defence of Oil Workers