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Iraqi oil and gas affiliates form trade union network

8 December, 2017IndustriALL Global Union’s oil and gas affiliates in Iraq have come together for the first time to establish a trade union network to better protect the rights of workers in the sector, at a meeting in Basra on 24 November.

Supported by IndustriALL, some 38 trade unionists and industry experts gathered in Iraq’s principal port city to discuss trade union work in sector, recognizing that oil and gas workers and their trade unions are fundamental to supporting the national economy.

Oil is the backbone of the Iraqi economy. However, the government has allowed foreign companies to enter the market, which focus on profit and whose policies on workers' rights are unknown.

Hassan Juma, President of IFOU:

“One of the most important priorities is the unity of the trade union movement in Iraq and we have started the first step in the most important sector, namely the oil and gas sector. The establishment of this network represents a unified trade union force capable of defending workers’ rights and maintaining the production. We are now working on developing a broad action plan in coordination with oil and gas unions in Iraq.”

Three non-affiliate oil unions attended the meeting and also joined the National Oil and Gas Union Network in Iraq, which will be part of IndustriALL’s MENA Oil and Gas Unions’ Regional Network.

All the unions signed up to six common objectives for the network as follows:

  1. Protect the basic rights of workers in Iraq's oil and gas sector across the country
  2. Protect national wealth for future generations against capitalist companies that do not respect the rights and opinions of citizens
  3. Coordinate with central and local authorities to urge foreign companies to take responsibility for maintaining the infrastructure of areas near oil fields exposed to toxic emissions
  4. Coordinate with the central authority to give priority to the workers of the oil sector for the great service they provide to Iraq as they are paid less than their counterparts in neighbouring countries
  5. Urge Iraqi Ministry of Oil to work seriously to preserve the rights of migrant workers working in different foreign companies, and oblige companies to apply Iraqi laws
  6. Oblige the Ministry of Oil to urge foreign companies to respect the rights of their Iraqi employees according to the union contract.

In a message to the new Network, IndustriALL’s Assistant General Secretary, Kemal Özkan, said:

“We applaud the unity shown by oil and gas unions in Iraq. The difficulties in the sector are huge, but by working together, bound by a common set of goals, Iraqi trade unions will be better placed to meet the challenges. IndustriALL will be ready to support you at all times.”

The members of the National Network are as follows:

  • Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions
  • General Union of Oil and Gas Workers/ General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions
  • General Union of Oil and Gas Workers / General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq
  • Oil and Gas Union / Engineering Professions
  • Union of Oil Workers / Union of Councils
  • Oil Union in South Refineries / Federation of Independent Trade Unions
  • General Union of Technical and Engineering Professions
  • General Union for Workers and Employees of the South Refineries

The formation of the network received support from Iraqi trade union centers, as a number of leaders of national federations attended the meeting and gave speeches of solidarity and support. The IndustriALL National Council of Iraqi Unions, met on the following day 25 November 2017, and also expressed support to the initiative.