Iraqi government agencies frequently interfere with internal union affairs, punishing union activists by imposing forced transfers, demotions, fines, travel restrictions, and other penalties allowed by Iraq‘s labor law, which dates from the Saddam Hussein regime, as well as the law governing state employees. The suppression of worker rights has been most severe in the oil sector, where the Oil Ministry has worked hand in hand with the oil companies to enforce these punishments.
This harsh approach is evident in the April 17, 2011, arrests of 26 workers at the Maysan Oil Company in southern Iraq who were peacefully demonstrating against corporate corruption. Even though they had received advance permission to hold their demonstration, a Ministry of Oil investigation led to the reprimand of eight workers and a warning to 18 others. All 26 were instructed that further actions would lead to greater penalties being applied against them. Individual letters sent by the company on December 13, 2011, essentially stated that the workers’ livelihoods would be jeopardized if they continued to engage in such activity.
Additionally, Abdul Kareem Abdul Sada, vice president of the General Federation of Trade Unions and Workers’ Councils of Iraq (GFTUWCI)–Basra Branch, received a reprimand and six-month suspension of his salary bonus, in accordance with recommendations made by investigative committee No. 1129 on January 11, 2012. Hassan Juma’a Awwad, president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), received a three-year grade demotion; Adel Abood, a board member of the southern oil union of the IFOU and member of the IFOU assembly board, received multiple written reprimands; and Abdul Khaliq Naser, a member of the GFTUWCI Oil union, received a warning letter, based on the recommendations of the same investigative committee. All were accused of “inciting unrest.”