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Iraqi judiciary used to persecute trade union

21 March, 2013In a clear reprisal attack for trade union activism at the state-owned South Oil Company (SOC), Hassan Juma’a Awad the head of IndustriALL’s affiliate, the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), now faces criminal charges launched by the authorities.

IndustriALL Global Union is angry about this persecution of trade union freedoms in Iraq. Hassan Juma’a was summoned before the Basra Court on 20 March and will now face trial accused of organizing a strike and demonstration by SOC workers in February 2013. 

The February mobilizations by SOC workers, members of the IFOU, were valid. Workers had been pushed to take strike action as management had repeatedly rejected calls for dialogue regarding non-payment of benefits from 2010, 2011 and 2012; the right to housing; permanent employment contracts; and an end to corruption at the company.

The workers, who work in the fields of al-Ramlia north and south, al-Berjesia, Gharb al-Karna, and Bab al-Zubair, gathered in front of the main door of the South Oil Company in Basra calling for the expulsion of corrupt employees and the dismissal of the company director. The manifestations were held on 13 and 19 February.

Hassan Juma’a did not organize the strike but has now been targeted for being an active trade unionist as part of a government effort to slander and undermine him and the unions. The 20 March court hearing postponed the case until 7 April due to the absence of a witness, and to enable Hassan to hire a lawyer. If found guilty Hassan would face up to five years in prison.

Eight other workers at SOC were also targeted by the General Inspector’s Office in the Ministry of Oil in order for the Ministry to investigate their role in recent demonstrations in Basra.

The Iraqi constitution guarantees freedom of association and peaceful demonstrations, yet over the years, the Ministry of Oil has repeatedly taken disciplinary action against union activists. These attacks on freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively reflect the government of Iraq’s intention to hold on to repressive laws and policies issued under the Saddam Hussein regime.

The South Oil Company (SOC) produces more than 80 per cent of Iraqi oil and is responsible for the oil in the south of Iraq.

It is essential that a fair and just ILO-compliant labour law that respects workers’ rights and guarantees freedom of trade union organizations, assembly and demonstration and strike is enacted as a matter of urgency and that all unions in Iraq are involved in any discussion relating to such a law.

IndustriALL Global Union extends its support to the Iraqi trade union movement and calls on affiliates to condemn all attempts of the Iraqi Government to trample on trade union rights.