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Labor Draws New Battle Lines on Iraq and Iran Oil Fields

Image courtesy US Labor Against the War

The Middle East’s two key exports these days seem terribly at odds with each other: oil, the lifeblood of the global economic order, and political unrest, in the form of protest movements rolling across the region. Occasionally, though, oil and dissent can mix, and workers may be channeling a bit of the Arab Spring into the petrol empires of Iraq and Iran.

A few weeks ago, the Federation of Workers Councils Unions of Iraq reported on unrest in the Kurdistan region, involving 174 workers of the Taq Taq Oil Operation Company. The conflict, according to the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions site, centers on charges of “a complete lack of equality for Kurdish workers” as well as fundamental abuses at the heart of the oil economy:

Workers are concerned at the complete absence of hazard protection in the workplace where the constant danger of hydrogen sulphide gas is said to threaten the workers lives. There is also said to be significant discrimination in treatment between the Kurdish and expatriate workers in terms of safety equipment and clothing provided as well as in both food and rest facilities.

Indeed we are informed that in scenes reminiscent of the apartheid era in South Africa expatriate workers have access to training and sports halls in their free time that local workers are refused access to and their living accommodation and restrooms are far inferior to those enjoyed by the expatriates. Expatriate worker wages are also considerably higher than those paid to Kurdish workers, many of whom are university and institute graduates.

Though Kurdistan is a relatively (and controversially) autonomous region, Kurdish workers’ grievances are part of a wave of protests this year that speak to overarching labor struggles and the national economic and political crises that have paralyzed the fledgling government bodies.

While mass uprisings erupted in neighboring countries, Iraqi labor militated for basic rights on the job, reported the UK Telegraph in May. State workers at several oil fields revolted against unfair pay scales propped up by notorious multinational giants like BP: [cont’d.]

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Labor Draws New Battle Lines on Iraq and Iran Oil Fields

Image courtesy US Labor Against the War

Cross-posted from In These Times

The Middle East’s two key exports these days seem terribly at odds with each other: oil, the lifeblood of the global economic order, and political unrest, in the form of protest movements rolling across the region. Occasionally, though, oil and dissent can mix, and workers may be channeling a bit of the Arab Spring into the petrol empires of Iraq and Iran.

A few weeks ago, the Federation of Workers Councils Unions of Iraq reported on unrest in the Kurdistan region, involving 174 workers of the Taq Taq Oil Operation Company. The conflict, according to the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions site, centers on charges of “a complete lack of equality for Kurdish workers” as well as fundamental abuses at the heart of the oil economy: (more…)

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