There is power in a union
Please excuse my radio silence this last week - on top of my regular work I was offered the opportunity to re-edit a film from the 1970s about a crucial strike in
Nonetheless, this excuse provides a nice segue to a quick note on a positively vital opinion piece in today's Guardian from Hassan Juma'a Awad, general secretary of
Awad was brought over to the
The occupation authorities have maintained many of Saddam's repressive laws, including the 1987 order which robbed us of basic union rights, including the right to strike. Today, we still have no official recognition as a trade union, despite having 23,000 members in 10 oil and gas companies in
, Amara, Nassiriya, and up to Anbar province. However, we draw our legitimacy from the workers, not the government. We believe unions should operate regardless of the government's wishes, until the people are able finally to elect a genuinely accountable and independent Iraqi government, which represents our interests and not those of American imperialism. Basra
Our union is independent of any political party. Most trade unions in
only seem to be aware of one union federation in Britain , the regime-authorised Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, whose president, Rassim Awadi, is deputy leader of the US-imposed prime minister Ayad Allawi's party. The IFTU's leadership is carved up between the pro-government Communist party, Allawi's Iraqi National Accord, and their satellites. In fact, there are two other union federations, which are linked to political parties, as well as our own organisation. Iraq
Our union has already shown it is able to stand its ground against one of the most powerful US companies, Dick Cheney's KBR, which tried to take over our workplaces with the protection of occupation forces.
We forced them out and compelled their Kuwaiti subcontractor, Al Khourafi, to replace 1,000 of the 1,200 employees it brought with it with Iraqi workers, 70% of whom are unemployed today. We also fought
viceroy Paul Bremer's wage schedule, which dictated that Iraqi public sector workers must earn ID 69,000 ($35) per month, while paying up to $1,000 a day to thousands of foreign mercenaries. In August 2003 we took strike action and shut down all oil production for three days. As a result, the occupation authorities had to raise wages to a minimum of ID 150,000. US
We see it as our duty to defend the country's resources. We reject and will oppose all moves to privatise our oil industry and national resources. We regard this privatisation as a form of neo-colonialism, an attempt to impose a permanent economic occupation to follow the military occupation.
The occupation has deliberately fomented a sectarian division of Sunni and Shia. We never knew this sort of division before. Our families intermarried, we lived and worked together. And today we are resisting this brutal occupation together, from Falluja to Najaf to
. The resistance to the occupation forces is a God-given right of Iraqis, and we, as a union, see ourselves as a necessary part of this resistance - although we will fight using our industrial power, our collective strength as a union, and as a part of civil society which needs to grow in order to defeat both still-powerful Saddamist elites and the foreign occupation of our country. Sadr City
Those who claim to represent the Iraqi working class while calling for the occupation to stay a bit longer, due to "fears of civil war", are in fact speaking only for themselves and the minority of Iraqis whose interests are dependent on the occupation.
We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military bases. We don't want a timetable - this is a stalling tactic. We will solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country and we can take care of ourselves. We have the means, the skills and resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society.