Thousands of state employees in Basra demand 9 months of unpaid wages
Thousands of federal government employees in Basra blocked roads to the southern Iraqi province’s oilfields on Sunday, vowing to continue their protest until the government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi pays them nine months of unpaid salaries.
In the aftermath of anti-government protests in October 2019, the Iraqi government pledged to recruit 30,000 mostly young men and women from Basra on contract, a poverty stricken province whose vast oil wealth is used to fund the government. The new employees were distributed amongst various federal government institutions.
The employees who took to the streets on Sunday morning said they have not been paid for nine months.
“They have worked for nine months on a salary of 450,000 dinars per month, but the government has failed to pay the salaries,” said Ammar Sarhan, an activist from Basra who took part in the protest. “The employees have… blocked all the roads.”
“We are not violent. We just want our rights,” Sarhan said. “We have not allowed a single truck to leave these oilfields and we won’t allow it until the government pays our salaries.”
Kadhimi visited Basra in August and promised to pay the salaries of the 30,000 employees, but they say they are yet to receive anything from the government.
Sarhan believes that around 20,000 people took part in the protest today.
Kadhimi’s government is struggling to get control over an economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a drop in oil prices. It has made salary payments of its civil servants by tapping into national reserves and borrowing from abroad.
Basra governorate, where most of Iraq’s oil is extracted and exported to international markets, is one of the poorest parts of the country with high unemployment. Years of neglect by the state have left the population disillusioned with the government in Baghdad. They have staged numerous protests in recent years, demanding an equitable share of their oil wealth for development and investment in their province. Source