The Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions began the second day of a strike in southern Iraq to protest labor conditions, wages, and the prospect of the hydrocarbon law currently under discussion in Parliament.
On Monday, the IFOU, which represents 26,000 oil workers in the south, announced it was shutting down two 14-inch oil and gas pipelines, and threatened to begin shutting down the 48-inch pipelines as a second phase of the protest if the government refuses to meet their demands.
According to a statement of support from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mining and General Workers Unions, the immediate the catalyst for the strike occurred when the general manger of the Oil Pipeline Company, Adel Aziz, who is based in Baghdad rather than in Basra, blocked orders of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Mailiki to release delayed benefits due workers. Moreover, Aziz reportedly withheld a Iraqi Dinar (IQD)50,000 allowance which the workers are regularly entitled to.
The striking workers are demanding that the Oil Ministry take action to force the general manager of the pipeline company to resign. Further, they ask that the company be financially and administratively independent from the Baghdad-based central ministry, and that the pipeline company be managed locally.
Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said the strike will not have any effect on crude oil exports from the south, but the IFOU indicates that the longer the strike continues, the greater the intended disruption.
Hassan Jomaa, head of General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, said if the government refuses to negotiate with workers, then they will work on spreading the strike to all oil facilities in Basra, including exports and production.
But Jihad said it was not possible for the Oil Pipeline Company workers to stop exports because they have no influence in the Southern Oil Company, which is in charge of exports.
The IFOU had announced in early May that it would strike because the government refused to meet its demands, including participation in design of the hydrocarbon law and improved working and living conditions.
Hassan Jumaa Awad, president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, told the unions don't have a good relationship with Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani but they delayed the strike to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who pledged to look into their complaints.