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American and British unions back Iraqi oil workers' strike

On behalf of the American and British trade union movements, the AFL-CIO and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), representing millions of workers in the United States and Great Britain, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the threats to the safety and security of workers in the Southern Oil Pipeline Company in Basra.

On Tuesday, 5 June, oil workers who are members of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) were threatened by the Iraqi armed forces when they attempted to exercise their legitimate right to strike. The right to strike is protected by the core conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), to which the Iraqi government is a signatory. We demand that the Iraqi government pull back its security and military forces and cease its menacing threats to arrest and attack these workers immediately.

The oil workers union called the recent strike after months of discussions with the government failed to produce a negotiated settlement to a comprehensive list of grievances that included improved wages, benefits and working conditions in the sector. Faced with a broken promise to reach a resolution, Iraqi trade union representatives attempted to represent the legitimate concerns of the workers they represent using lawful means.

In no way do these peaceful actions warrant the strong intimidation tactics, such as the armed forces surrounding striking workers. We urge the Iraqi government to return to the bargaining table as requested by the union, and come to a negotiated settlement agreed upon by both parties. There are proven successful industrial relations mechanisms to resolve disputes that are at the disposal of all parties to this dispute. Only peaceful means will pave the way towards a sustainable solution to this serious situation.

6 June 2007

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