It Sounds Like BushCo Talking

Sharistani: Iragi oil unions not legit

WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) — Iraq’s oil minister said Iraq’s oil unions are not legitimate and have no more standing in the debate over the oil law than an ordinary citizen.

“There are no legal unions in Iraq,” Hussein al-Shahristani said Wednesday in response to a question about various factions’ positions on the controversial oil law. “Those people who call themselves representatives of the oil workers have not been elected to the position.”

Shahristani spoke to UPI by phone from Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein outlawed worker organizing in the public sector; subsequent U.S. occupying powers and now the Iraqi government do not recognize the workers’ rights to organize.

Despite that, workers have come together and leveraged their power. Since 2003 they’ve blocked numerous attempts to privatize management of both oil and other facilities and stopped work over disputes — most recently early last month over the oil law and other unmet demands.

Earlier this month workers in the southern, oil-rich town of Basra marched in protest against the oil law and demanded Shahristani’s resignation.

The law would govern exploration and development of Iraq’s 115 billion barrels of proven reserves and unknown reserves to be found in under-explored areas. But the law is stuck over central government vs. regional/local control over certain oil fields. And the unions, along with other political elements, have led the charge that the law allows for contracts they see as too friendly to foreign oil companies.

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