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Iraqi government withdraws fuel increase proposal after workers protest

15 June, 2023Workers of the South Refineries Company in Basra, Dhi Qar and Maysan, as well as workers of petroleum products companies, had protest demonstrations in front of the companies’ headquarters from 25 to 30 May.

Protests were organized by an initiative from workers and unions. Workers demand the cancellation of a government proposal to increase the price of a barrel of crude oil. 

The Finance Committee in the Iraqi parliament proposed raising the price of a barrel of oil and approving taxes on petroleum products within the country's general financial budget for the years 2023, 2024 and 2025. Protesting workers called on the government to reverse the proposal to increase prices, and not to prejudice their wages and entitlements.

They also called on government to support refinery companies’ development which will allow a reduction in fuel supply. The protesters warned the government against being drawn into the policies of international financial institutions because of their negative repercussions. 

The Iraqi Federation of Oil and Petrochemical (IFOU) said in a statement that the increase represents an implementation of the International Monetary Fund’s dominance in order to address the budget imbalance. IFOU criticized the proposal to raise oil prices and adopt taxes on petroleum products. It said that it will lead to corporate losses and to job losses. It will also impact workers’ purchasing power and the increase will lead to an increase production costs.

This will affect companies’ competitiveness, which threatens their sustainability and ability to operate. IFOU also expressed its rejection of all intentions to refer members and trade unionists to investigative committees and to the judiciary to silence their voice.

Hassan Juma, president of IFOU said: 

“The workers fought for a national issue of concern to all Iraqis.The protest demonstrations were successful and preoccupied the government as this led them to withdraw the proposal and abolish respective article from the budget on increasing the price of crude oil.”

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said: 

“IndustriALL Global Union commends workers in Iraq. They took a stand and fought for something that would have an enormous impact on your daily living. We commend you for your courage and determination in this fight.”