[Marxism] Iraq's indentured servants

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jul 1 05:39:25 MDT 2004


Underclass of Workers Created in Iraq
Many Foreign Laborers Receive Inferior Pay, Food and Shelter
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2004; Page A01

KOLLAM, India -- The war in Iraq has been a windfall for Kellogg Brown & 
Root Inc., the company that has a multibillion-dollar contract to 
provide support services for U.S. troops. Its profits have come thanks 
to the hard work of people like Dharmapalan Ajayakumar, who until last 
month served as a kitchen helper at a military base.

But Ajayakumar, 29, a former carpenter's assistant from this coastal 
town, was not there by choice.

He said he was tricked into going to Iraq by a recruiting agent who told 
him the job was in Kuwait. Moreover, he said, the company skimped on 
expenses by not providing him and other workers with adequate drinking 
water, food, health care or security for part of their time in the war 
zone.

"I cursed my fate -- not having a feeling my life was secure, knowing I 
could not go back, and being treated like a kind of animal," said 
Ajayakumar, who worked for less than $7 a day.

Working alongside Americans trying to rebuild Iraq are an estimated tens 
of thousands of foreign contractors without whom the reconstruction 
could not function. Many toil for wages that are one-tenth -- or less -- 
of what U.S. workers might demand, saving millions of taxpayer dollars.

The employees were hired through a maze of recruiters and subcontractors 
on several continents, making oversight and accountability of the 
workforce difficult.

Pakistan is looking into reports that recruiters were illegally trying 
to hire security personnel to go to Iraq. The Philippines is assessing 
protection measures for its nationals after attacks killed two military 
support workers. And India is conducting an investigation into the 
dining service workers' allegations.

The State Department said it received a request from India for 
assistance and has passed it along to the Defense Department. A 
spokeswoman for the Army, which manages the KBR contract, said the 
responsibility for the investigation rests with the company.

KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., came to employ Ajayakumar and 
other Indian workers through five levels of subcontractors and 
employment agents. The company, which employs 30,000 workers from 38 
countries in support of the U.S. military, said it had been unaware of 
the workers' concerns until recently

full: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19228-2004Jun30.html
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