Iraq - Oil workers sanctioned for strike action (2012)

Under existing legislation, workers in the public sector, including the state-owned oil companies, are not allowed to form trade unions. Workers that do organise protests are threatened with arrest and relocation. Despite the threats similar worker actions have taken place throughout the main oil producing regions of the south including many protests calling for equal treatment of Iraqi and Kurdish workers and expatriates. The authorities forcibly relocate trade union leaders in the oil industry from their regular jobs in order to remove them from their members and sources of protest.

In June, it was reported that Jamal Abdul-Jabbar Akram, president of the Oil and Gas Workers’ Union of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), had been transferred to another part of the country. This happened after his union staged a February rally outside the headquarters of the state-owned North Oil Company and Jamal refused to cease union activities. In a separate incident, 16 workers were fined nearly USD60, 000 by the Oil Ministry for a March 2010 work stoppage at the Basra refinery. The workers were also transferred from Basra to Baghdad. In Basra, local authorities urged the filing of lawsuits against striking workers.

In May, over 300 Iraqi oil workers staged a wildcat strike in Basra and demonstrated outside the headquarters of the state-owned Southern Oil Company. Their demands included an end to management corruption, and equal pay and treatment with foreigners. However, management used private security officers to confront the demonstrators. At least one worker activist, Sami Hassan, was detained briefly.

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