It’s Still About the Oil, Stupid

A David and Goliath Story: Iraq Labor vs. ExxonMobil, BP and Shell
By Kathlyn Stone
Feb 23, 2007, 13:10

According to British media, the US and UK governments are on track to achieve a March victory in Iraq. This victory will not be publicized nor will it mean an end to the occupation.

Written by Bush and Blair’s big oil business partners who serve as the leaders’ advisors on foreign policy, the new Iraq hydrocarbon law opens the door for international investors, led by BP, Exxon and Shell, to siphon off 75 percent of Iraq oil wealth for 30 years. This economic model is called a “Production Sharing Agreement.” But is a 75/25 split, with bloated oil companies taking 75 percent of the country’s wealth and leaving just 25 percent for the devastated Iraqis, a sharing agreement or an armed robbery?

The law is currently under consideration in the Iraq Parliament, with deputy prime minister Salih, chair of the oil committee, carrying the legislation.

Iraq’s unions, if not its occupied government, are standing firm against the oil law. With the oil sector representing 95 percent of the country’s revenues, and with only 17 of Iraq’s 80 known oil fields under production, much is at stake.

The General Union of Oil Employees in Basra has taken a strong stand against the proposed law. GUOE’s courageous members booted KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, out of refinery workplaces shortly after the invasion despite Cheney’s award of a ‘no bid’ contract. Members also went on a two-day strike last August, winning their demands for higher pay. From what one can glean from foreign press and unfiltered words from Iraq, so does every other union in Iraq. In his February 6 speech
at a conference held at Basra University to debate the oil law, GUOE president Hassan Jumaa Awad al Assadi minced no words. “Among the objectives America wishes to achieve from the military occupation of Iraq, all the causes of which we do not want to return to, but simply to emphasize one central objective of the American political leaders who crossed oceans and wasted billions of dollars, that is Iraqi oil. Indeed we in the Federation of Oil Unions consider this the most important reason for this foul war.”

Assadi, who was jailed three times for opposing the former Baath regime, called on Iraq’s Parliament to “bear the Iraqis in mind, to protect the national wealth, and to look at the neighboring countries. Have they introduced such laws even when their relations with foreign companies are closer than in Iraq? If those calling for production-sharing agreements insist on acting against the will of Iraqis, we say to them that history will not forgive those who play recklessly with the wealth and destiny of a people and that the curse of heaven and the fury of Iraqis will not leave them.”

The oil workers must be braced for a response. After GUOE’s first anti-privatization conference last summer, the U.S. and Iraqi governments responded by freezing the union’s bank accounts.

Union members have been arrested and fired from their jobs. At least two union leaders, Hadi Saleh, of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unionists (IFTU) and Ali Hassan Abd of the GUOW, were assassinated since the invasion.

Saddam Hussein’s 1987 Law 150, banning unions and union organizing remains in effect. In 2004 U.S. administrator Paul Bremer declared them illegal.

Read the rest here.

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