Unpaid Work

AMARA, June 19, 2011 (AFP) – Thirty Sri Lankan construction workers in southern Iraq have been on a five-day hunger strike because they have not been paid for the past two years by their Iraqi employers, the labourers said Sunday. Thousands of South Asian workers are employed in menial jobs in oil-rich Iraq, many working for catering, cleaning and transport contractors for US forces posted in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

“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