BLOG:Libyan oil workers strike

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At the end of January, workers at Libya's main oil refinery, Ras Lanuf, went on strike for five days. Their demands included overtime pay and equal salaries for local and foreign workers. The strike was part of a wider movement of oil workers. 

The strike started on January 25 and was settled on January 30 when the demands of striking workers were met. The Ras Lanuf refinery produces 220,000 barrels a day. 

This was the latest in a series of protest and strike movements involving oil workers in Libya. In November 2012, workers at the Sidra Oil Export Terminal (oeprated by the Waha Oil Company), which has a capacity of 400,000 barrels per day, struck over a range of wages and conditions demands.

Two strike leaders Hamad Ferjani and Awad Bakuri were quoted by the Libya Herald explaining their demands, which included: "a review of working hours, better overtime allocation, more authority for section heads to enable swift decisions, an end to jihad tax deductions, a management review, improved security, transport and living standards, better communication services,  the revision of contracts and the early completion of the health insurance arrangements." 

Then, a workers' strike starting on December 23rd paralysed the Zueitina oil terminal for three weeks. Protestors were demanding better conditions and for jobs for local people.

Nearly two years after the beginning of the movement which put an end to Gaddafi's rule, social and economic demands against the new Western-backed rulers are coming to the fore. 

An article in Reuters quoted an oil worker from Benghazi: "Most people here would say they are very unhappy ... Some say they are worse off than before."

Oil workers are a crucial section of the Libyan working class and therefore their movements are very significant. The same Reuters article ended with a statement from Yussef al-Ghariani from the oil and gas workers' union, echoing a mood which also exists in Tunisia and Egypt: "(Politicians) said they would do many things but there is no change ... People say they will do another revolution."

Having experienced capitalist "democracy", workers and youth across the region, the real protagonists of the Arab revolution are returning to the social and economic demands which sparked their movement. These cannot be satisfied within the limits of capitalism.

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