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Iraq government orders arrest of oil workers' leaders
Thursday June 07, 2007 15:27 by tom eile
Iraq's powerful oil workers' trade union today expressed alarm as an
arrest warrant was issued for its leaders, in an attempt to clamp
down on industrial action.
Members of the union have been on strike since Monday 4th June, in
protest at the government's failure to meet any of its promises made
in a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on 16th May. The
union's 16 demands included improvements to wages, health and other
working and living conditions as well as consultation on the proposed
oil law, which the union opposes. The union added a 17th demand
yesterday demanding the sacking of the General Manager of the
Southern Pipeline Company.
On Tuesday, al-Maliki warned that he would meet threats to oil
production "with an iron fist".
The arrest warrant, based on a charge of "sabotaging the economy"
specifically names Hassan Juma'a Awad, the leader of the
26,000-strong Federation of Oil Unions, and three other leaders of
Hassan Juma'a commented, "the government is intimidating the union
but we are determined to gain our legitimate rights." He added that
the strike would continue in accordance with the union's plan.
The strike entered its third day today and is in its "second phase,"
which now includes the closure of the main distribution pipelines,
including supplies to Baghdad. "Phase one" closed some of the
smaller distribution pipelines. Phases one and two did not include
production and exports.
The union is calling on all its supporters and unions across the
world to back the union at this critical juncture. Sami Ramadani
from the union's UK-based support committee, Naftana said: "Issuing a
warrant for the arrest of the oil workers' leaders is an outrageous
attack on trade union and democratic freedoms."