Iraqi oil workers resist corporate control

by Associated Press

Thursday 14th June 2007 01:21 PM

10 June 2007

WASHINGTON - A new law privatizing Iraq’s oil reserves, gives multi-national oil firms the overwhelming majority of Iraq’s present and future oil production, a top Iraqi union leader says.

The law, written behind closed doors in Washington last year, hurts Iraq’s oil workers, she adds.

Speaking to protesters convened by U.S. Labor Against The War, Iraqi Electrical Union Workers President Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein added the law must be dumped and called upon U.S. voters to pressure U.S. lawmakers to achieve that.

The protesters, who included members from USLAW, the Department for Professional Employees, and several anti-war groups, chanted “No blood for oil!” and other anti-war phrases on their mile-long march June 5 to the U.S. Capitol. Hussein led the march, which came at the start of her second U.S. tour to tell unionists about Iraqi opposition to keeping U.S. troops in Iraq. An Iraqi oil union leader plans to join her.

The march also came a day after Iraq’s government sent troops to quell a strike by unionized oil workers in Basra. Key issues were wages, health and safety and use of temps. The strike ended after one day when the government promised further talks. The AFL-CIO demanded Iraq stop using troops and that the U.S. government protest.

Marchers started at the D.C. headquarters of the private consulting firm, BearingPoint, that helped Bush regime officials write the oil law. They finished with an outdoor meet-ing with an anti-war Democratic presidential hopeful, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). He pledged to try to repeal the requirement that Iraq approve the new oil law, as part of his overall plan to cut off funding for GOP President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq.

BearingPoint denied writing the law, but said it sent one technical specialist on oil to Iraq, as part of a $30 million Bush-awarded development aid consulting contract there.

The new Iraqi oil law, which that nation’s parliament has yet to approve, would leave only 27 of Iraq’s 78 present oil fields under control of the state-run Iraqi oil company. The rest would be farmed out to multinational oil corporations by a board on which representatives of those firms would sit. The board would also award contracts for future reserves. There would be other provisions giving control to the private firms.

In return, Iraq would get royalties of only 12.5% of all oil revenues from the farmed-out fields, a fact sheet on the new law says. “Taken together, these terms make a mockery of any real Iraqi sovereignty,” the fact sheet adds.

Hussein told Press Associates Union News Service before the march the oil law forced oil workers in Basra and elsewhere to threaten to strike. She also said it would have a far greater impact on oil workers than just depriving Iraq of oil revenue. “To this day, the government hasn’t made it (the law) legal, because of the protests,” she added.

The Iraqi oil workers are owed months of back pay, they demand a share of Iraq’s oil profits, and many lack title to what had been state-owned houses for the workers and their families. They were promised title to the houses, Hussein said.

This article was written by Press Associates, Inc., news service. Used by permission.