The persecution of unions in Iraq: defend Hassan Juma’a Awad

Hassan Juma’a Awad
Federation of Iraqi Oil Unions

Hassan Juma’a Awad is the chairperson of the Federation of Iraqi Oil Unions. He and his union have fought a long battle for workers’ rights, and for Iraqis to enjoy the fruits of the country’s natural resources.

Ever since the Iraq war, much of the country’s oil resources have been controlled by foreign multinationals.

Hassan Juma’a Awad has been summoned to appear before the Basra Court tomorrow, on March 20, to face charges of organising a strike at the Southern Oil Company.

These charges are false and he is being accused as part of a government effort to slander and undermine him and the unions.

The Iraqi constitution guarantees freedom of association and peaceful demonstrations, yet over the years, the Ministry of Oil has repeatedly taken disciplinary actions against union activists, including transferring them to distant work sites, reprimanding them, filing criminal complaints against them and imposing heavy fines and penalties on them. The Ministry has banned union organising at the companies affiliated to it, which is also a violation of ILO convention 98, which Iraq has ratified.

These attacks on freedom of association and the right to organise and bargain collectively reflect the government of Iraq’s intention to hold on to repressive laws and policies issued under the Saddam Hussein regime.

The Iraqi government’s continued repression of freedom of association and worker rights, based on laws issued under a dictatorship, is in direct contradiction with the principals of democracy and justice that the Iraqi government promises its people. The government of Iraq should immediately cancel the orders issued by the Ministry of Oil to union activists, including all transfer orders, reprimands and arbitrary penalties against union activists.

Charges against Hassan Juma Awad, and any other workers who have had retaliatory legal action taken against them, should be dropped. All workers, including public sector workers, must be permitted to freely join trade unions, without government interference in union activities. We also urge you to act to expedite the passage of the new labour law, in compliance with International labour standards, allowing all workers the right to join unions and bargain collectively.

Defend Hassan Juma’a Awad 

US Labor Against the War has created a letter to the Prime Minister of Iraq. You can read the text here. Please add your organisation’s support to this letter to make it as powerful as possible.

The letter has already been signed by Len McCluskey of Unite and other labour leaders.

If you want to add your organisation’s support, please email Terry Rockefeller or add your signature to the letter.


We’ve just heard from Hassan’s supporters that the court appearance has been postponed until 7 April. This gives us some time to build solidarity.



Published by

Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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