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Al-Maliki orders arrest of leaders of striking oil workers

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The Iraq government issued arrest warrants today for leaders of the Federation of Oil Unions as oil workers shut down main distribution pipelines, including those supplying Baghdad, on the third day of their strike.

The Iraqi army has surrounded the striking workers since Tuesday, according to ICE, a global union of 20 million industrial workers based in Brussels, Belgium. ICE also called upon the government to work for a peaceful resolution to the strike.  

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) based in the UK issued this statement:  “Military intervention is not the way to resolve industrial disputes. This strike began only after weeks of negotiation had failed to produce a deal, but negotiation is the only way to end the strike peacefully.” 

Oil workers of the Southern Pipeline Company are taking part in the strike to protest the government’s failure to follow through on promises made in a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki on May 16, according to the Basra Oil Workers’ web site.  

The union’s demands include wage, health and other working and living improvements, and consultation on the proposed oil law, which the union opposes. The union also demands the immediate firing of the general manager of the Southern Pipeline Company who is accused of failure to act in good faith on negotiated agreements.  

The arrest warrant charges four union leaders of “sabotaging the economy,” according to Naftana, an independent UK-based committee that supports  democratic trade unionism in Iraq.  

Hassan Juma’a Awad, leader of the 26,000 member Federation of Oil Unions, said the strike would continue and “The government is intimidating the union but we are determined to gain our legitimate rights.”

Union organizations express solidarity 

On Monday, the Brussels, Belgium-based International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) issued a statement supporting the striking oil workers. ICEM represents 20 million workers in 125 countries. US Labor Against the War (USLAW), and the UK-based Trades Union Congress (TUC), and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), have also sent formal messages of solidarity to the Iraqi oil workers.

USLAW today encouraged its members to contact the Iraq embassy in Washington D.C. to protest the arrest of the union leaders.

For more information:

General Union of Oil Employees in Basra:

International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):

Trade Union Congress (TUC):

US Labor Against the War: 

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.ï She publishes, a health and science news site.
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