Stop forced privatisation in Iraq

Submitted by Janine on 15 May, 2005 - 8:46

Support oil union's campaign

By Colin Foster

Three and a half months after the 30 January elections, Iraq now has an elected government, a coalition of the Shia and Kurdish alliances, with some seats set aside for Sunni Arab politicians. The Sunni-Islamist “resistance” has marked the occasion with a new surge of bombings.

Meanwhile, May 25–26 will see Iraqi trade unionists and civil society activists gather at the Oil Institute of Basra for a two-day conference aimed at fighting the privatisation of Iraqi oil.

The conference is organised by the General Union of Oil Employees, a union strong in Iraq’s south but unaffiliated to any of Iraq’s main union federations.

Six papers written by professors from Basra University on the subject of privatisation will be presented and discussed on the first day of the conference. The following day will be dedicated to international contributions and messages of solidarity.

Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis have dedicated their film “The Take”, to the conference and it will be shown there. The film depicts the courage, militancy, co-operation and autonomy of unemployed workers who took over an auto-parts factory in Buenos Aires.

The International Confederation of Energy and Mining (ICEM), the UK’s Transport and General Workers Union and the Offshore International Liaison Committee (OILC) have all been invited to send representatives to the conference.

According to Munir Chalabi, a UK contact for the General Union of Oil Employees: “At the moment, anti-privatisation is an issue not much written about in Iraq. If the conference is successful, then it will be possible to start a real campaign against privatisation in Iraq.” As to whether other trade unions in Iraq would be invited to attend the conference, Munir did not know.

Decrees by the US occupation authorities after April 2003 mandated the privatisation of everything above ground in Iraq. Many lawyers believe that these decrees were illegal, but by clever footwork the US has got them written into the Transitional Administrative Law for Iraq, under which the country’s new elected government operates.

In the chaos which has followed, not much has been privatised — no-one wants to buy — but if and when a minimum of stability is established, rip-off privatisation is set to follow. The workers are organising to resist.

• More information: Munir Chalabi.

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