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Excessive violence against labour protestors in Iraq

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5 June, 2024On 2 June 2024, Iraqi security forces escalated their violence against contract workers at the South Refineries Company, who were peacefully protesting for permanent contracts. The brutality was described as "deadly" by Iraqi unions.

In a joint statement, IndustriALL affiliates, the General Federation of Oil, Gas and Petrochemical Unions in Iraq (GFOGPUI), the General Union of Oil Workers, and the General Union of Energy in Iraq, condemned the security forces' use of rubber bullets and electric batons to disperse the protesters. This aggressive action resulted in severe injuries to both male and female protesters and led to the arrest of several individuals. 

In their joint statement the unions hold the security services fully responsible for the injuries inflicted on the protesters and demand the immediate release of the detainees. They also called for the formation of a high-level investigative committee to examine the reasons behind the use of such force.

Since 26 May, contract workers at the South Refineries Company, part of the Ministry of Oil, have been rallying to demand permanent jobs. The protests began with a strong security interventions, during which several workers were arrested and others were forcibly dispersed. Despite this, the workers continued their week-long protest, asserting their right to demonstrate. 

The unions have expressed widespread discontent over the violent interventions and have demanded that the government address the workers' demands. They also filed a complaint with the head of the governorate council.

The protesting workers have been employed under 315 contracts for several years without fair resolution of their employment status, creating a tense social climate within the company. Although they were supposed to receive permanent contracts at the end of the legal period, management failed to take the necessary steps to ensure this. Supported by the unions, the workers began protesting to demand urgent action from the relevant Ministry.

GFOGPUI president Hassan Jumaa stated, 

“The peaceful actions will continue because the workers' demands are just. We condemn the violence used by the security forces against the peaceful protesters and call on the Ministry to respond to their demands.”

Abdelkareem Abdelsada (Abu Watan), president of the General Union of Energy in Iraq, added, 

“We condemn the unjustified attack on the workers and call on the security authorities to protect the protesters and release those who were arrested.”

Shaker Barad, president of the General Union of Oil Workers, pointed out that the General Management of the company is responsible for the tension. 

 “The management did not send the Ministry of Oil the list of workers eligible for permanent contracts, nor did they allocate the necessary budget for them. The violence committed is serious, and those who attacked the workers must be held accountable.”

IndustriALL general secretary, Atle Høie said: 

"Such relentless attacks are terrifying and completely unjustified. This is a blatant violation of the right to expression and peaceful protest. Those responsible must be brought to justice. Workers' peaceful actions should be met with social dialogue, not violence. We stand in solidarity with the injured workers and their families, we support the workers' legitimate demands and we demand the immediate release of the arrested workers,"