Iraqi Unions Fight the New Oil Law

Article excerpt

IRAQ'S PROPOSED OIL law, which would open up control of the country's oilfields to multinational corporations, is one of the Bush administration's top political priorities. On July 3, Bush called Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to encourage him and other leaders to move "aggressively forward" on it, and as In These Times went to press, its latest draft appeared headed to the Iraqi Parliament for debate. Even if it passes, however, enacting it won't be easy, as it faces strong opposition from Iraqi oil workers.

"It doesn't serve the interests of the Iraqi people," says Faleh Abood Umara, general secretary of the Basra-based Southern Oil Company Union and the Iraqi Federation of Oil Workers' Unions. Umara recently toured the United States, advocating both national control of Iraqi Oil assets and immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Umara says that the law-"written in the United States"-would permit joint ownership of many Iraqi oil fields by foreign companies, which could export much of the oil and profits from these fields for up to 35 years under what are called "production sharing agreements."

"We want the national Iraqi oil company to make service contracts with the companies, not partnerships," Umara said in an interview, shortly after dedicating a plaque that extolled international labor solidarity at the Chicago monument to the Haymarket workers, whose protests in 1886 led to the declaration of May Day as the international workers' holiday.

"We want new technology for the production of oil but to have foreign companies work with Iraqi workers and professionals for a limited time," he says. "We are not opposed to being developed with advanced and imported technology, but we would like to be sole owner of our wealth and use it to develop our country and cities."

The proposed oil law partly would govern distribution of revenue, which Umara says the oil workers' unions want directed to a national redevelopment fund. …