"For the past two years I have been unable to send any money to my family back home," said a 35-year-old worker who identified himself only by his first name, Lalith.
"My wife has left me due to poverty, because I was unable to provide for my family," he said with tears in his eyes. "We are determined to continue our hunger strike until our salaries are paid."
The workers said they were each promised 2,000 dollars per month to work for Talat Osam al-Deen construction firm, which had hired them to work on a government housing project in the southern city of Amara.
They said they had not received a single salary.
The company failed to launch the project, which was then passed on to another firm, said Maitham Lefteh, a member of the provincial council of Maysan, of which Amara is the capital.
"We tried to solve some of the workers' problems by giving them 200 dollars (140 euros) each, and writing to the office of the prime minister and the housing ministry," he explained. "But there has been no response."
He said the company owners had fled.
The workers have been living in tents on the site of the housing project."I am suffering, and back home my family is suffering, because they have no money. I have three children who need food and clothing," said another worker, Hamanta, 37.