Just today the U.S.-backed Iraqi cabinet approved a new oil law Monday that is set to give foreign companies the long-term contracts and safe legal framework they have been waiting for. The new law is not favored by unions and workers in Iraq who according to IPS, "...criticised the process of drafting the law and warned that that the bill is so skewed in favour of foreign firms that it could end up heightening political tensions in the Arab nation and spreading instability." The new law basically takes the oil industry out of the public sector and turns it over to mostly international private corporations. IPS further reports, "Union leaders have complained that they, along with other civil society groups, were left out of the drafting process despite U.S. claims it has created a functioning democracy in Iraq." Many think protection of the foreign companies will become just another pretext for continued occupation.
On Feb. 8, the labour unions sent a letter in Arabic to Iraqi President Jalal Talbani urging him to reconsider this kind of agreement.
"Production-sharing agreements are a relic of the 1960s," said the letter, seen by IPS. "They will re-imprison the Iraqi economy and impinge on Iraq's sovereignty since they only preserve the interests of foreign companies. We warn against falling into this trap."
"The hydrocarbon law reflects the process of readying Iraq's oil for privatisation," said Ewa Jasiewicz, a researcher at PLATFORM, a British human rights and environmental group that monitors the oil industry, "Drafted in secret, shaped by foreign powers, untransparent, undemocratic and forced through under military occupation."
Jasiewicz said the law can be regarded as the economic goal of the war and occupation and that "it will be viewed by most Iraqis as not just illegitimate, but a war crime."
So maybe we should be anything but surprised by the news of the attack on the GFIW.
The following CALL comes from LaborStart. The statement which follows comes from the General Fedration of Iraqi Workers.
Iraq: Raid on trade union offices
On 23 February 2007, US and Iraqi forces raided the head offices of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), the country's national trade union center. They arrested one of the union's security staff (later released unharmed), destroyed furniture, and confiscated a computer and fax machine. And then they did it again two days later, causing further damage to the union headquarters.
The union is condemning the attacks as unprovoked. It is calling on the occupation forces to issue a written apology, to return all the seized property, and to pay compensation for damages caused. Please show your support by sending off the message below.(click here)
Official Statement on American raids on the GFIW headquarters in Baghdad
On 23 February, American and Iraqi forces raided the head office of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW) and arrested one of the Union security staff.
This unprovoked attack resulted in the destruction of furniture, the confiscation of a computer and fax machine and the arrest of employee who was released unharmed later same day.
The same force repeated this unprovoked attack on 25 February and caused further damage.
The GFIW while condemning this unprovoked attack and calls on the occupation forces to issue a written apology, to return all the GFIW property and compensate for the damages they caused to our office.
We call on trade unions around the world to show solidarity by condemning these attacks and sending messages of support to the GFIW.
The GFIW Executive
Baghdad 26 February 2007