Hassan Juma'a, the head of the Iraqi General Union of Oil Employees. Photo: David Bacon
Iraqi oil leader walks free (yet again!)
When I blogged about Hassan Juma’a in July, it was to celebrate the fact that his three month court ordeal – facing charges of disrupting oil production by holding violent demonstrations and calling illegal strikes – was over. I was wrong. But now, I hope I’m right!
Hassan is the leader of the powerful oil workers union in the Southern Oil Company, which produces billions of dollars in oil for the beleaguered Iraqi economy. His members are better off than many in Iraq, but their fight for better terms and conditions is important for all Iraqi workers, and the union is a major proponent of distributing Iraq’s enormous oil wealth fairly for the whole Iraqi population.
Neither demand makes him particularly popular with the management of the company or the rulers of Iraq. In July, a judge finally lost patience with the failure of the Southern Oil Company to provide any evidence for their claim against Hassan, and threw the case out. But then the Oil Minister stepped in and persuaded an appellate court to reinstate the charges.
Finally (well, fingers crossed), the Second Criminal Court in Basra confirmed that, without evidence, the Iraqi Government couldn’t keep dragging Hassan to court, and threw the charges out again. Hassan’s sent a message of thanks to his supporters in the trade union movement globally and in particular in the USA, where he attended the AFLCIO convention in September. The campaign goes on to get the charges against his fellow trade unionists discharged as well.
Hopefully, the Iraqi government will now go back to the drawing board and start treating workers and their unions with respect – including an ILO-compliant labour law – working together for a fair and socially just Iraq.