12 November 2004
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Appeal on behalf of the Southern Oil Company Union, Basra
In the aftermath of the brutal US-led assault on Fallujah, there can be little doubt that the occupation is bringing grief and suffering to huge numbers of Iraqis. It must be brought to an end.
Since the spring of 2004, Iraq Occupation Focus has been campaigning to get UK troops out of Iraq. As a service to the wider anti-war movement, we produce a free fortnightly e-newsletter to help keep people informed about the realities of the occupation. We have organised a number of well attended public meetings and will be hosting a major international teach-in on 5th December on the subject of Occupation and Resistance in Iraq (see enclosed leaflet). Following this we have organised a nation-wide tour for two of our guests US ex-servicemen now running anti-war groups for military families.
But whilst campaigning against the occupation is our priority, we also feel we have a duty of solidarity towards those on the receiving end of the US-UK assault on Iraq. Daily life is a living hell for millions of Iraqis, with shortages of electricity and clean drinking water, the spread of disease and unemployment running at 60-70%. Iraq Occupation Focus is a broad group composed of individual activists from many backgrounds. Many of us are trades unionists, and as such we want to do what we can to help those rebuilding the tradition of trade unionism in Iraq under appalling conditions.
Thats why were writing to you today. The Southern Oil Company Trade Union is at the forefront of the fight against the free-market fundamentalism that the US has tried to usher into Iraq. Based in the UK-occupied southern zone around Basra, the SOCU is the largest affiliate of the newly founded Basra Oil Union which represents in total around 30,000 oil sector workers.
SOCU represents the best traditions of independent trade unionism. After having physically expelled many of their Baathist managers, SOCU members began autonomous reconstruction of oil facilities which had been destroyed during the war. When the occupation authorities imposed what amounted to poverty wages on the oil industry, they threatened strike action and won an increase.
SOCU stresses its political independence, both from the US-appointed Iraqi Interim Government and from all political parties. It was central to the shutdown of oil exports in protest at the siege of Najaf in August. It is also battling to prevent the wholesale privatisation of Iraq. Thats why it now needs the solidarity of western trade unionists. And it needs that solidarity to take practical form. In particular, it needs money to continue the basic tasks of workplace organising and workers representation.
We hope that you will be able either to organise a collection in your workplace for the SOCU or pass the motion that weve enclosed and make a donation from your branch or trades council funds. We also hope that in doing so, you will consider a donation to Iraq Occupation Focus as well, so that we can continue our campaign to expose the realities of the occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home now.