January 16, 2014
The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) supports the demands of the employees of South Oil Company (SOC) to hold SOC and the British Petroleum (BP) Oil Company responsible for the recurring collisions that occur on the road of North Rumailah in Al-Rumailah field in Basra. Recently these collisions have claimed the lives of eleven Iraqi workers. Accidents occur on this road because it is one-way, and is wholly unsuitable for the safe passage of large vehicles and oil tankers.
ICSSI appeals to the Iraqi oil minister and the Iraqi government to act immediately to put an end to these fatal and unnecessary accidents by forcing the South Oil Company and BP to take on their legal responsibility to provide secure and safe working conditions for their workers and associates, in particular here, by providing a two-way road which has ample room for the large vehicles which operate in the Al-Rumailah field. Further, ICSSI implores the oil ministry and the Iraqi government to create an investigation committee to discover and hold accountable all those who have been negligent in this regard, and to ensure fair and just compensation for the families of the victims of those affected by the incidents on this dangerous road.
SOC Employees Committee confirmed on its Facebook page that the road mentioned above is not only one-way (and thus far too narrow for the large vehicles that must use it), but that additionally, it is full of potholes. As several oil companies’ personnel and equipment pass through it daily, the probability of accidents exceeds 90% each day.
On the evening of Wednesday, 14 January, a horrific collision occurred between a car carrying a number of workers of Al-Rumailah oil field and an oil tanker on the road of North Rumailah. The accident resulted in the death of nine workers and wounded three, two of whom died the following day.
In response, the SOC Employee Committee issued a strongly worded statement which it posted on its Facebook page, holding the South Oil Company and BP directly responsible for this accident, as well as for all the previous ones. To date, SOC and BP have failed to respond to the demands of workers in this field for the construction of another lane in the road, as well as their request to stagger the shifts of working hours so as to reduce the risk to workers’ lives and safety. They have also appealed for a stop to the movement of heavy tankers until the end of the comings and goings of workers in the morning and evening.
Abu Wattan, the labor leader in the SOC employee committee confirmed in a speech at a protest and a funeral for the victims of the incident, that “The protest is a memorial service for the victims, to remind the Iraqi and foreigner officials of their direct responsibility for those lives which have been lost as a result of their negligence, and to meet the demands of the workers”. He stressed the need for workers to refuse any form of work that does not ensure their own safety and security, and was clear that the SOC employee committee would never compromise on this issue. In his speech, Abu Wattan demanded that the Oil Ministry conduct an immediate investigation into the reasons given by the SOC to delay the construction of a second lane on the road of North Rumailah, and more generally, to repair all the roads leading to the oil fields.