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Iraqi union organizes Shell workers

20 April, 2017IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) has succeeded in negotiating a union to represent 6,000 workers at a new joint venture with Shell.

The recognition agreement is with the Basrah Gas Company, created by the Iraqi government in 2013 as a joint venture with Shell, Southern Gas and Mitsubishi.

The company is 51 per cent owned by the Iraqi government through its Southern Gas Company, and 49 per cent owned by Shell and Mitsubishi. Shell is the major operator. The company employs 6,000 workers: 4,000 seconded from the former Southern Oil Company, and 2,000 employed directly by the Shell. There are also a number of service companies.

The company was formed to exploit the gas that emanates from oil fields and used to be squandered and burned, leading to the loss of millions of dollars to the Iraqi economy throughout the years. The newly created company extracts, refines and exports gas.

Since the creation of the company, the IFOU has worked to defend workers' rights, improve working conditions and create a workers’ union in the company.

The IFOU wrote to Shell to request the creation and recognition of a union for the new company, citing the company’s commitments to international environmental and workers’ rights standards. The company initially refused.

However, after persistent effort by the president of the new union, Munqiz Abdelgabar, the company relented and the union was successfully formed in February 2017. Workers have elected their representatives in the company sites in Storage Terminal, Marine Terminal, Rafidiya, North Rumaila NGL plant, gas filling stations supplied by Southern Oil, South Rumaila, Shamiya Station and West Qurna.

IFOU is an active member of the IndustriALL Shell Global Union Network and the Middle East and North Africa Oil and Gas Unions’ Network. In both these networks, improving unions' regional networking, consolidating  genuine regional and national social dialogue and organizing at Shell are key objectives.

Hassan Jumaah Awad, president of IFOU said:

"The key objectives of the new union are to progress collective bargaining in the company, address women and youth issues, and consolidate a union base which is able to contribute to the company’s social and economic policies as well as promote labour education to all workers.

“The new union has wide support amongst workers - both Iraqi and migrants workers.”

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

"Iraqi unions successfully organizing at a multinational like Shell is a breakthrough for us. This is a great achievement by Shell workers, especially considering the tremendous challenges facing unions in Iraq.

“We will continue our work with IFOU to support the new union. We strongly urge the management to cooperate with our affiliate in Iraq and work on developing a genuine social dialogue at the company.”