Drop charges against Iraqi oil union leader, says TUC

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Solidarity with Iraqi workers

Harassment of oil union leader

March 2013

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady has urged the Iraqi government to desist from persecuting and harassing trade unionists in the oil industry. Union leaders from the sector globally - IndustriALL - and UNITE in the UK have also called for the case against Hassan Juma'a Awad, leader of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), IndustriALL's affiliate, to be dropped.

In a clear reprisal for trade union activism at the state-owned Southern Oil Company (SOC), Hassan Juma'a was summoned before the Basra Court on 20 March accused of organising a strike and demonstration by SOC workers in February. He is due to stand trial in April, and this is far from the first time he has been targeted by the authorities.

Frances' letter reads:

Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in London
21 Queen's Gate
London SW7 5JE

Your Excellency

We are deeply concerned about the continuing violations of union rights and freedoms in Iraq, in particular in the oil sector.

Most recently, Hassan Juma'a Awad, Chairman of the Federation of Oil Unions, has been charged of organising an entirely legitimate strike at the Southern Oil Company. We also understand that eight Southern Oil Company workers have been summoned to the General Inspector's Office in the Ministry of Oil in order for the Ministry to investigate their role in recent demonstrations in Basra, where workers engaged in peaceful protest.

The Iraqi constitution guarantees freedom of association and peaceful demonstrations, and the Iraqi Government is, by virtue of its membership of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) bound to uphold freedom of association and free collective bargaining. Yet for years, we have had to complain that the Ministry of Oil has repeatedly harassed union activists, including transferring them to distant work sites, reprimanding them, filing criminal complaints against them and imposing heavy fines and penalties on them.

The Ministry has banned union organizing at the companies affiliated to it, which is also a violation of ILO convention 98, which Iraq has ratified. These attacks on freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively maintain the repressive laws and policies of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The Iraqi government should cease forthwith the continued repression of freedom of association and worker rights, based on laws issued under a dictatorship. We further believe that the government you represent should immediately cancel the orders issued by the Ministry of Oil to union activists, including all transfer orders, reprimands and arbitrary penalties against union activists. Charges against Hassan Juma'a Awad, and any other workers who have had retaliatory legal action taken against them, should be dropped.

Finally, we urge you to encourage your government to expedite the passage of a new, ILO-compliant labour law, allowing all workers the right to join unions and bargain collectively.

I would be grateful if you could convey our concerns to your government, and I look forward to your positive response on these urgent and important matters.

Yours sincerely

FRANCES O'GRADY

General Secretary

Briefing
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