by Labour mouvement of Iraq on 03-04-2013
Iraqi Oil Union President Faces Criminal Charges Repression Against Unions and Workers Escalates
Hassan Juma'a Awad, President of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions & Faleh Juma'a Awad
Despite all the talk about fostering democracy and human rights in Iraq, workers there continue to be denied the right to freely organize trade unions and negotiate over the terms of their labor – just as they were under Saddam Hussein.
In the last two years, repression against unions has escalated. A wave of peaceful strikes has recently swept Iraq as workers seek to redress grievances and assert their rights. The response of the Al Maliki government has been to crack down on discontent with disciplinary action against union activists, and even criminal complaints against union leaders.
Recently the Ministry of Oil lodged a criminal complaint against Hassan Juma’a Awad, President of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions*, claiming he was responsible for strikes in the oil industry.
If convicted, he could face stiff fines and five years in prison. He has been ordered to appear in court on April 7th to respond to charges leveled against him.
Persecution of union leaders for exercising rights promised by Iraq’s constitution and protected under international treaty must not be allowed to stand unchallenged.
Labor organizations across the U.S., including the AFL-CIO, and around the world have responded by signing a letter to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki demanding that all charges against Hassan Juma’a be immediately withdrawn and that persecution of Iraqi workers peacefully exercising their rights must cease.
They further demand that the Iraqi government promptly enact a basic labor and trade union law that guarantees the right of workers to organize and join unions of their choosing free from government interference and harassment, and that both public and private employers be required to negotiate over the terms and conditions of employment with the unions chosen by their employees.
No government that denies these basic labor and human rights can claim to be a democracy.
The U.S. and other governments ought to freeze economic aid to Iraq until these and other basic human rights are respected.
U.S. Labor Against the War calls on its affiliates, members and supporters in unions and allied social justice organizations to sign this petition supporting the rights of Iraq’s workers and solidarity with Hassan Juma’a and other union activists who are being persecuted by the government for exercising their rights.
*Hassan Juma’a was one of six Iraqi union leaders who toured the U.S. in 2005.
Mr. Nouri Al Maliki
We strenuously protest repressive measures being taken by your government against peaceful workers acting collectively to seek redress for their grievances against the South Oil Company and in other Iraqi workplaces.
We demand that all punitive and retaliatory measures, including disciplinary actions, forced transfers, fines and criminal complaints against workers engaged in peaceful collective action be immediately rescinded.
We demand that criminal actions being taken against Hassan Juma’a Awad, President of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions, and any other union leaders be unconditionally withdrawn and that retaliation for their activities on behalf of other workers cease immediately.
Iraq must honor obligations created by its own Constitution and International Labor Organization Conventions to which it is signatory. Workers must be allowed to freely organize in unions of their choosing and those organizations should be recognized by employers. Both public and private sector workers should be allowed to engage in good faith bargaining with their employers over the terms and conditions of employment without interference by the government. The right of workers to strike or otherwise withhold their labor must be recognized and fully respected.
Iraq cannot claim to be a democratic society if it fails to respect these basic labor and human rights.