By ICSSI, Jan 31, 2016.
Employees and workers of the General Company for Land Transport demonstrated on January 25 in front of their company headquarters in Baghdad, requesting that their rights be respected, and that company corruption be brought to an end (including the prompt dismissal of all those involved in unethical practices). Following a verbal argument with the workers, the deputy general manager, who refused to leave his position in the company, shot the unarmed and peaceful demonstrators severely wounding two workers. According to the General Federation of Workers Union, the responsible ministry has called the shooting an action of ‘self defense’.
ICSSI calls on the Iraqi government to investigate this tragic situation, to challenge the ministry’s absurd characterization of it, and to make sure those responsible for the murder and injuries are held fully accountable.
ICSSI also asks for support from international unions, calling upon workers from around the world to help make this gross injustice known, and to join together to struggle against this kind of abuse and oppression.
Following is a statement by one of the co-organizers of this demonstration:
Mohammed Bani Al Faleh – 25/01/2015
Today, employees of the Land Transport Company are stronger than ever in defying the company management, effectively thieves of public money. Having sacrificed for decades (under poor and discriminatory management, which systematically deprived them of the opportunity to participate fully in the development of the company), workers now stand hand in hand, united, requesting reforms in their company, which would secure their pensions and protect their futures.
The workers and employees are simply calling for what is due them according to law, they seek only that which is in line with the production capacity of the company. After all, these workers and employees are experts in their fields; they have skills and knowledge, which has been accumulated over many years of dedicated work, and surely deserve just compensation. The Land Transport Company represents the entity responsible for maintaining and providing transportation for the country, but corruption internal to the company has damaged its capabilities and undermined its potential, which has led to a transferring of its contracts to companies in the private sector. It has been marginalized in the field of transport, specifically in terms of the Al-Basrah ports, removing it from its rightful position as the clear leader in all Iraqi transport. Because the company has become a means of inflating salaries of its management, it now stands probably last after the trucks run by the Ministry of Commerce and the offices of private transport.
The director of the company busies himself with travel, taking trips to all corners of the globe for the purpose of what appears to be his own personal entertainment. He wanders from Turkey, to the UAE, and from the UAE to Sweden, and from there to London, and from London to China and so on. It is thus rare to find the manager of the company on site for any given week during the year; meanwhile he depletes the company’s funds to finance his luxury travel (including five-star hotels and extravagant tours for him and his family). In addition to all this, he is paid upon his return for his work running the company!
Those public transport companies working with Land Transport pay the director directly (in dollars), thus commercial contracts can be used for his personal advantage, instead of paying employees and workers. Meanwhile, truck drivers often have no work, and instead undergo long periods of hibernation in company garages within in Baghdad and its suburbs. Until now, employees of the company have had to accept this fate, struggling to survive without paid work and often in need of life’s basic necessities.
The director of the Land Transport company recently gave instructions to cut employees’ salaries, to reduce most salaries to 250 000 IQD (with an additional cut of monthly bonuses), to reduce the fuel allocated for cars, to prevent employee rewards, and to refuse to support workers and employees in observance of religious events and occasions. Furthermore, drivers often must be in their trucks on the road for more than ten days at a time, without time allotted for breaks food and sleep. Meanwhile, the director luxuriates in first-class hotels, and pockets tens of millions in ‘expenses’ designated for his travel.
But all good things must come to an end, and today the unsung heroes of the Land Transport Company — that is, its workers and employees — will shatter the myth behind the man who has long boasted that his position in the company arises directly from the will of God. We are seeing now that he has grossly underestimated the power and might of his employees. They will pursue justice until the end, enduring even the cruel and violent tactics the management doles out, determined as they are to assert and exercise their rights.