1,200 workers in a cement factory in Karbala held a strike calling for increased benefits. The factory is operated by the French company Lafarge, and bosses want to massively increase production to about 60,000 tonnes per month. This is a huge amount for an old factory and the capability is not really there to meet these targets. According to the contract between Lafarge and the Iraqi government, the furnace must be upgraded before the increase in production can take place, but the upgrade hasn’t been made The furnace has receive routine repairs only. It’s meant a massive increase in workload for the workers. The workers struck on Sunday 11 February and have given bosses ten days to meet their demands.
At Lafarge’s Bazian plant, near Suleymaniyah, drivers have also taken strike action demanding greater safety protection in the workplace. They closed roads to and from the plant, meaning that goods couldn’t enter or leave.
In Basra, three cleaning workers have died in an industrial accident. They were cleaning an oil tanker in precarious conditions and fell in. They were working on the “daily wage system”, which is casualised and gives no insurance or compensation in case of dangerous working conditions or accidents.
Bosses’ disregard for workers’ safety has also been demonstrated by the importing of cranes and other industrial equipment from Japan, purchased because they were cheap. No prior tests or checks were carried out and the equipment was later found to be radioactive after having been used in clean-up and reconstruction following the disaster in March 2011.
A delegation from FWCUI visited Cairo recently to attend the conference of the new Federation of Independent Trade Unions, which was held in Cairo. We met with workers’ leaders from a variety of sectors, and talked about new trends in the international workers’ movement that are breaking from the old bureaucratic unionism. We talked particularly with Egyptian and Tunisian activists about the possibility of forming a new international tendency of workers’ organisations, and the possibility of an international conference was discussed. We’ll meet again in Cairo in three or four months to discuss things further. From our point of view, it’s important that any international regroupment is based on the basic, day-to-day tasks of the workers’ movement and doesn’t have an unnecessarily ideological or doctrinal basis.
The threat of an American or Israeli attack on Iran is, of course, being discussed by people in Iraq. It’s being discussed with a lot of fear and trepidation. We know from our own experience in Iraq the results of such an invasion, so people are worried about it. They’re also worried about Iran’s influence within Iraq, and how Iran might try to turn Iraq into a battlefield in the event of any war.