Hassan Juma'a, the head of the Iraqi General Union of Oil Employees. Photo: David Bacon
Court case against Iraqi oil union leader: hunt the evidence…
Over a month ago, I wrote about the court case being taken against the leader of Iraqi’s oil workers at the South Oil Company (SOC). Hassan Juma’a was due to be tried for organising a strike, using a Saddam-era law. The charge itself is offensive, as the strike he is being accused of calling should be entirely legal. It is further evidence that Iraq is still way out of compliance with ILO labour standards.
But now the situation is getting farcical, with trial date after trial date coming and going. Originally scheduled for 20 March the case was initially postponed to 7 April and then 15 April. Then the trial was postponed again to 2 May and yesterday it was postponed again until 19 May. Meanwhile, pressure from trade union movements around the world is growing.
What’s the problem? Well, the SOC management who brought the case seem to have failed to prepare any evidence of the damage they claim has been done to them. In fact they’ve told the judge that they’ve asked the Oil Ministry in Baghdad to provide them with some evidence (not that it’s being made up or anything, hundreds of miles away from the actual workplace concerned!) And the Iraqi Oil Ministry, who have been after Hassan for years, have somehow failed to come up with the evidence the local management need.
Now the judge seems to be losing patience. Hassan has reported that when the SOC lawyer failed again to present any evidence or witnesses, the judge said that he would give the company one last chance. He added that all that he had heard about so far was peaceful demonstrations about workers’ rights that are protected by the Iraqi constitution. He indicated that if the company doesn’t come up with the evidence on 19 May, he may simply dismiss the case.
Frankly, the Iraqi government – who clearly put the company’s management up to it – should cut its losses and drop the case. And they should enact ILO-compliant labour law so that unions can concentrate on building a new Iraq. You can help persuade them by signing the IndustriALL e-action demanding the charges be dropped and replaced by good faith bargaining.