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Oil Workers Unite and Protest the Decision to Reduce their Salaries

Abu Watan: ‘You left corrupters to enjoy the spoils of their theft, and struck at us with an iron fist!’

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Basrah – Forward Newspaper

On Sunday, November 1, hundreds of workers in the Southern Oil Company in Basrah, protested in front of the headquarters of the company in Bab Al-Zubair, rejecting the new salary scale which was recently approved by the Council of Ministers. A number of demonstrators said that they already received very low salaries, and that they relied on those salaries for their living. It is worth mentioning that the Leaders of the Committee to Defend Gas Workers participated in this demonstration.

Abdul Karim Abdul Sada (Abu Watan) said: “We expected the council of ministers who approved these reforms to understand well that the employees of the Southern Oil Company, along with their fellow workers in other Iraqi oil companies, are the solid foundation on which successful government stands. The oil wealth that officials enjoy is the result of the steadfast efforts of those workers who bear the scorching heat of summer and breathe polluted air. Thus, we — the producers of this wealth — are deprived of all its benefits: and now we are being further deprived of the essential elements of a decent life, such as housing, health insurance and a good salary. Far from treating us fairly, those who gain from the wealth that oil brings reduce our salaries and benefits with a mere stroke of a pen. How then can those very officials who rob us expect us to work hard and be dedicated employees? Those who are most corrupt are left to keep the profits of their stealing, and strike us with an iron fist! We reject this miserable salary reduction, and will never accept it. We will unite and cry out with one voice, No, on the new salary scale reform. Your salaries depend on us, the workers, your wealth is in our hands, and we want our rights, no more.”

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Many similar speeches were given. For instance, Abu Zahraa gave a speech on behalf of the Refineries Workers in which he confirmed the rejection of this reform. Asaad Mansour also spoke, emphasizing the strong unity of oil workers who stand together in rejecting this unfair new reform of salaries. Members of the Southern Oil Workers Committee also stated to Forward Newspaper that: “Oil workers will demonstrate again next Wednesday in front of Basrah Governorate building”.

Workers from the Southern Oil and Basrah Gas Companies, the Oil Refineries in Basrah Company, and Workers from Dhi Qar Fields Committee took part in the demonstrations, while members of the Southern Oil Committee, Coordination Committee of Al-Shuaiba Refinery and the Committee to Defend Gas Workers in Basrah have issued a statement.  In it, they said: “Since the start of the so-called ‘reforms’, we — the employees of the oil sector — expected that the reforms would work to improve our economic and social reality, especially since most of us already receive very limited salaries and live in rented houses which exhaust most of what we earn. Therefore, we were surprised with the new salary scale, which sent a resounding shock through all of us, as oil company employees. Our voices are now being raised to reject it, as it was an unfair governmental action that deprives us what we need to survive, to plan for our futures, and those of our children. It would have made more sense if you who drew up this ‘reformed’ salary scale had recovered the money stolen by those who are most corrupt in the oil business, or perhaps implemented a system of progressive taxation so that billionaires paid a fairer share (most of whom are politicians who get their billions through corruption). Again, we are the producers of the very wealth that allows you to live in luxury. We tell you that we reject your miserable salary scale, and if we protest today, then tomorrow we will sit-in. Remember well that your own salaries are in our hands, and our hands only”.