by David Phinney
Friday July 12th 2024



Filipinos and others Protest Working Conditions in Iraq with Work Stoppage

by David Phinney

May 30, 2005 — The latest sad chapter in the use of cheap labor to support the US military in Iraq: Three hundred Filipino workers waged a labor strike and work stoppage against US military contractors Prime Projects International, a leading subcontractor to Halliburton’s subsidiary, KBR.

The 300 Filipinos were joined by 500 workers from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, all of whom were protesting delayed wages, long working hours, unsatisfactory food and inadequate accommodations.

While US workers go over to Iraq to make $80,000 to $100,000 a year tax free, sometimes even more, the story that’s being ignored involves the third country nationals — known as TCNs — who work for wages between $500 and $1,000 a month doing things like washing dishes, preparing food, cleaning laundry, driving trucks, and performing hard hat construction jobs without the hard hats in sandals.

All the while, a number of sources in Iraq tell me that TCNs are living closer to incoming mortar fire on the outskirts of military camps, blistering temperatures, all the exotic diseases Iraq has to offer, scarce medical care, and living quarters and food that is worse than what is served to the coalition “partners.”

Despite a travel ban to Iraq imposed by the government of the Philippines last year after a Filipino truck driver was kidnapped and it withdrew its own small force, Filipinos rank as the biggest supplier of manpower for US-led coalition forces, with official estimates indicating that about 6,000 Filipinos are working in various military camps.

The Philippines alarmed US officials in April when it threw its muscle behind that ban by offering to fly home the estimated 6,000 Filipino workers after two died in apparent attacks that month. According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, US Embassy expressed concern several times. After all, thousands of inexpensive workers leaving Iraq would be a kick in the stomach to contractors providing support services to the occupying forces.

After some behind the scenes negotiations and reports of US pressure, the brewing US alarm died. Manila announced that although the government continues to call on all Filipino workers to return home, the repatriation would be done on a voluntary basis.

No doubt, US foreign aid is a great boon to the US objectives in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the most recent labor dispute has been “temporarily resolved.”


Reader Feedback

2 Responses to “Filipinos and others Protest Working Conditions in Iraq with Work Stoppage”

  1. Bob says:

    Why am I not surprised anrmyoe I guess, this is deeply rooted in mis-education of the people. Lack of discipline stems from poor training at home. I hate to sound snooty, but well-off people do show some more discipline than impoverished ones. Education does not have to be in direct proportion to one’s income, but in this country, that is the reality. With education comes discipline. But education here is more of a privilege than a right.

  2. Rosaura says:

    Come and take advantage of me!

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