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At the beginning of August the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) succeeded in winning the return of eight oil union activists from the south of Iraq, who had been forcibly transferred to a dangerous part of Baghdad in June.
Britain’s Trades Union Congress, the AFL-CIO (US), and global union federations including the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions all exerted pressure, notably at an International Labour Organisation conference in June.
The IFOU staged a two-hour sit-in strike on 4 August to try to prevent the transfer of another popular trade unionist from Basra.
The Iraqi oil ministry is accused of using Saddam-era trade union laws to crush the union’s challenge to the privatisation and sale of Iraq’s oil wealth.
On 30 June, in the biggest step so far towards transferring Iraqi oil into the hands of foreign multinational companies, the Iraqi government announced a bidding round for medium-term “risk service contracts” on five of its key oil-producing fields, contracts in which foreign oil companies will be allowed to have stakes of up to 75%.
Greg Muttitt of the art-politics group Platform warns this offer, with a deadline of June 2009, could be giving away “possibly more than any major oil producer has given since the colonial era”.