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Workers strikes spread at South Africa’s largest food manufacturer
On December 3, workers at the Tiger Brands-owned Tastic Rice factory in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa joined the indefinite strike of 1,400 workers at Beacon Confectionary, another subsidiary of the company.
The African Meat Industry and Allied Trade Union members at Beacon began a protected strike, now in its fourth week, when the company offered a three percent rise. Workers had demanded seven percent. After an appeal from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Food and Allied Workers Union members at Tastic stopped work in support of the Beacon strike. Tiger brands have now offered four percent, but inflation in South Africa is currently at five percent.
Clover Foods workers continue indefinite strike across South Africa
Workers employed by the Clover food and beverage group, South Africa demonstrated December 2 outside the group’s head office in Roodepoort, Johannesburg. They are threatening to occupy all the company’s factories in protest at pay cuts, redundancies and longer working hours.
The General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa and the Food and Allied Workers Union members are in the third week of an indefinite protected strike, begun November 22.
Clover wants to close several factories and save R300 million by retrenching 1,400 workers and introducing 12-hour days, worked over four days in every six, without overtime pay. They also issued a Labour Relations Act restructuring notice, which proposes a 20 percent reduction in wages as the only way to reduce redundancies.
One protester said “They just gave us the letters. Just like that, take it or leave it. We also say to Clover, take it or leave with our labour.”
Gold miners close to strike as fatalities rise in the South African mining industry
As South African miners at Sibanye-Stillwater multinational head for strike action after final meetings with management and mediators end on December 13, criticism has been aimed at the company over fatalities at its mines.
Four mineworkers were killed at Sibanye-Stillwater mines in two separate incidents December 3, and 18 employees have died so far this year. Fatalities across South Africa’s mining industry reached 70 this year, highlighting the risks miners take daily.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, Solidarity, and UASA union members at Sibanye-Stillwater demand pay rises comparable with those negotiated with other major South African gold mining operations.
The NUM are also critical of the company’s vaccine policy, as miners attending work must prove they are vaccinated or provide a negative PCR which they must pay for themselves.
Health workers in Gqeberha, South Africa protest working conditions
Over 100 nurses, hospital porters, general assistants and other health workers and their supporters marched to the district office of the Department of Health in Gqeberha, South Africa December 3. They were protesting staff shortages and dilapidated health facilities, and demanding full-time permanent employment for community health workers.
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union members also want the removal of the district manager, accusing her of nepotism and racism.
Union ends nationwide strike at South African Massmart store with below-inflation deal
The two-week stoppage by thousands of employees at Walmart-owned Massmart has been sold out by the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union.
On December 6, the union negotiated a below-inflation pay deal of R400 per month or 4.5 percent at Massmart’s Builders stores, backdated to July 1. The union initially demanded R500. The company agreed to reinstate some retrenched employees at Game stores.
Massmart is the largest general merchandise, liquor and DIY retailer and wholesaler of basic foods in South Africa. Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue.
Nigerian electricity workers walk out against salary deductions
Nigerian electricity workers in Abuja, Kogi and Niger stopped work on December 6, against repeated unauthorised deductions from their salaries and pensions.
The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) also made deductions from salaries earmarked for pensions, but failed to pay the money into pensions funds for more than 20 months.
The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) members shut the AEDC offices in Abuja, Niger, Nasarawa, Kogi states. The strike led to power cuts in several areas.
Protests were held in some cities. In Minna, the capital of Niger State, protesting workers took to the streets after locking up their own head office and other offices across the state. Demonstrators carried placards with slogans including, “Pay us our money and other entitlements,” “We are not slaves” and “Remit our pension deductions.”
The NUEE later suspended the strike, after holding a meeting with government representatives. The government and employers claimed the arrears would be paid within 21 days.
Union ends Nigerian primary teachers’ indefinite strike in capital city over arrears, but primary school teachers stay out
Primary school teachers on strike in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Nigeria were told to return to work on December 3 by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), following their indefinite strike over pay and promotions.
The teachers are demanding resolution of teachers' promotion arrears from 2014-18, their annual increments for 2020-21 and the upgrading of qualified teachers.
Teachers in secondary schools were told to return to work after a five-day warning strike that began on November 18. The NUT justified the decision by the FCT minister's declaration that teachers would be paid their arrears this month, but primary school teachers stayed out. Remaining on strike were the primary schools funded by Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in the area councils in Abuja. Six councils did nothing to comply with the demands.
The NUT announced the strike’s suspension on December 3, citing promises by relevant authorities.
Lecturers at University of Liberia strike over pay
Lecturers and instructors at the University of Liberia walked out indefinitely early December, in a dispute over salary arrears and pay disparities.
Finance Minister Samuel Tweah made appeals and held a last-minute meeting with the University of Liberia Faculty Association as the strike was to begin.
National strike of healthcare workers in Turkey over pay
This week, Turkish healthcare workers joined numerous short strikes to demand that a pay rise of between 2,500 and 5,000 lira given to doctors last week be extended to other health workers. According to Reuters, two unions with a combined membership of over 250,000 workers called for one-day strikes on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Sailors begin 48-hour pay strike in Greece
On Friday, sailors throughout Greece will begin a 48-hour strike called by the Panhellenic Maritime Federation (PNO) during its collective bargaining negotiations with the employers’ association SEEN.
The PNO and SEEN are negotiating a collective agreement which retrospectively covers 2020 and 2021. The major issues behind the strike are the size of the increases and the refusal of SEEN to offer all the back pay demanded, according to ef.syn.
The PNO reports that SEEN wants no retrospective increase for 2020, only 1 percent for 2021 with no back pay, and a 1 percent pay rise for the coming year. Other demands put forward in negotiations include insurance, pensions, unemployment, and undeclared work. The union accused the employers’ body of “stonewalling.”
A previous two-day strike in November planned by the PNO was called off to “give the employers and government one last chance to change their unproductive and negative behaviour.”
Health and social care workers demonstrate throughout France against exclusion from pay review
On Tuesday, thousands of health and social care workers joined a one-day strike and demonstrations across France to demand the same pay rise granted to other workers in the sector.
The “Ségur” healthcare review last year recommended a pay increase for certain healthcare workers in line with their level of training, but many workers were not included. The main demand at the demonstrations was a 183 euro increase to monthly salaries, but many strikers also raised issues of workload and staffing levels. Nursing home staff, support workers for children, elderly and disabled people, and social workers all took part in the demonstrations.
Strike of waste collection workers in Marseille, France against increase working hours continues
Waste collection workers in the French city of Marseille continue their indefinite strike week, begun November 25, against the extension of working hours. France Bleu reported that the strike was initially called by the smaller unions in the service after Workers’ Force (FO), which represents most of the workers, signed a deal in October, but FO members joined the strike from this week.
There have been strikes in municipal services throughout France since the announcement of a new law which comes into force from next year and would increase annual working hours. The changes would cost many workers at least a week of leave.
One-day Belgian national strike against pay restraint
On Monday, around 4,000 workers joined a demonstration in Brussels called by the two major Belgian union confederations to coincide with a one-day national strike.
Workers denounced the country’s law restricting pay rises this year to 0.4 percent, while inflation recently rose to over 5.6 percent. The Belgian state frequently imposes “wage norms”—legal limits on the pay rises workers can receive. Since the implementation of the 0.4 percent wage norm earlier this year, the unions denounced the law but have only called two previous one-day national strikes.
Bus drivers in Brussels, Belgium strike to demand protection from COVID-19
On December 2, bus drivers in the Brussels region of Belgium working for French multinational Keolis began a stoppage over their exposure to COVID-19.
The Confederation of Christian Trade Unions reported that the company did not inform other bus drivers after several of their colleagues tested positive for the virus, and that Keolis refused to provide surgical masks to drivers. Workers at Keolis also drive the buses which act as mobile vaccination centres for Brussels.
Currently there are 16,000 people testing positive daily in Belgium, and almost 50 die each day.
48-hour strike of prison staff in Brussels, Belgium
Last week, the two main Belgian trade unions called a 48-hour strike in the three prisons in the capital Brussels.
They initially announced a strike in November, but suspended it while management claimed to address their demands. Het Laatste Nieuws reports that the unions now criticise management for making no progress on implementing a single one of their 20 points, which concerned low staffing levels, overcrowding and poor conditions in the prisons, and the demand for a 30- minute collective meal break.
The General Union of Public Services said there are 10,933 prisoners in a system with a capacity of 9,611.
Overcrowding also increases the danger of COVID spreading through the prison population. RTBF reported that on October 31 a wing of Saint-Gilles prison was put in quarantine after an outbreak.
Spanish unions endorse over 1,500 job losses at Unicaja bank
Last week, the Spanish trade unions signed an “agreement in principle” to 1,513 dismissals and the closure of almost 400 offices by Unicaja, one of Spain’s largest banks.
Of the three 24-hour walkouts planned for last week, the unions suspended Wednesday’s due to “progress” in the negotiations with Unicaja, and after Thursday’s strike went ahead, they announced an agreement was signed.
This year alone, CaixaBank have cut 6,452 jobs, 2,725 jobs have been lost at BBVA and 1,380 at Banco Sabadell. In each case the unions called only token one-day strikes to demand small decreases in the number of cuts, improvements to redundancy terms, and a face-saving guarantee that cuts would be “non-traumatic” voluntary redundancies. Neither the unions nor the banks ever explained how hundreds of branches can be closed without workers being forcibly sacked or relocated.
On the same day the agreement was announced, Europa Press reported that the credit agency Fitch improved Unicaja’s outlook from “negative” to “stable.” el Periódico reported that in addition to the 1,513 redundancies, as many as 1,200 workers could take early retirement. The paper published a list of the 15 largest mass layoffs by Spanish banks since 2013, in which over 40,000 jobs were lost in a country with an official unemployment rate of over 14.5 percent.
Unions call off strike over work conditions by 061 medical emergency number in Catalonia, Spain
The indefinite strike begun on October 18 by workers at the 061 medical emergency number in Catalonia was called off by the unions last week, after mediation meetings chaired by the Ministry of Business and Labour with the operator, multinational transport company Ferrovial.
Workers had demanded improved working conditions and that the running of the service be nationalised.
According to Crónica, the department of health announced it would increase funding for the 061 and 112 emergency call services by the equivalent of 9 percent of payroll. The only concession on nationalisation was that the government announced it would “begin a study.”
Workers who operate the 112 general emergency number, also employed by Ferrovial, began their own indefinite strike in August, raising the same demands as the 061 operators. The 112 strike was effectively banned by the Catalan government, who imposed the requirement that 100 percent of services go ahead as normal, and the 061 strikers were required to provide 85 percent of normal services.
One-day strike against plans by Italian aerospace company Leonardo to furlough thousands
Workers at Leonardo, an Italian aerospace and defence company, held an eight-hour strike on Monday to oppose plans to furlough thousands of workers, Reuters reported. The Italian Union of Metalworkers and Federation of Metallurgical Workers opposed the plans and demanded an industrial plan to maintain production.
The company, 30 percent owned by the Italian government, announced it would furlough 3,400 of the 4,500 workers in its Aerostructures division for 13 weeks due to a lack of demand for parts, according to the Reuters report.
Metro workers in Porto, Portugal hold strikes in pay dispute
Workers on the metro network in Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, held strikes on December 3 and Tuesday this week, in a pay dispute with the operator ViaPorto.
The company announced in advance of the strikes that it predicted services would be “drastically” limited, and the unions estimated that on the first day of the strike all but 20–30 of the 150 drivers on the network walked out.
The Drivers’ Union called for the company to return to negotiations over the length of the new collective agreement. The union said that it was prepared to accept the company’s pay demands but wanted the next deal to be negotiated in two years’ time rather than three.
Further strikes by bus workers in South Yorkshire, UK over pay
Following a week-long strike, bus drivers at Stagecoach in South Yorkshire, England will strike again after rejecting a two percent pay offer.
Around 560 Unite union members, covering Barnsley, Rotherham, Dearne Valley and West Yorkshire will begin a week-long strike Sunday, while those in the Sheffield area will begin a week-long strike Saturday.
Unite said there will be no stoppages over Christmas period, but they could resume in the New Year.
Offshore service workers in Scotland walk out over cuts to pay and conditions
Around 300 workers employed by Ponticelli UK Ltd and Semco Maritime Ltd, Scotland walked out on Monday.
The stoppage was part of a programme of walkouts in the period up to February 22. An overtime ban is also in place. The Unite union members, who service offshore oil platforms for Total Energies at several fields in the North Sea, oppose cuts in pay and conditions. The workers at both companies voted by more than 90 percent to take industrial action. They also rejected an improved offer from the company by over 80 percent.
Biomedical scientists at Lancashire hospital trust in England to begin third tranche of strikes over pay
Around 20 biomedical scientists at the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust in Burnley and Blackburn, England will begin a third tranche of strikes on December 15 until March 8.
The Unite union members are involved in a long-running dispute over the hospital trust reneging on a 2019 agreement to upgrade pay. The biomedics want a lump sum payment to cover the loss of pay. They are owed between £8,000 and £12,000. The scientists are responsible for analysing patient blood samples.
The Unite members conducted a series of strikes between May 31 and July 28, and again between August 20 and November 11.
Strike by port workers at Foyle in Northern Ireland over pay
Port workers at Foyle in Northern Ireland walked out on Monday, seeking improved pay.
The Unite members are either directly employed by Foyle Port or work for Burke Shipping. For the Port Foyle workers, it was the second day of strike action while for the Burke Shipping workers it was the third.
Strike of teachers at school in Preston, UK in opposition to academisation
On Tuesday, teachers held a one-day strike at St Matthew’s Church of England primary school in Preston, England. Around 40 National Education Union members picketed the school.
The school plans to transfer from local authority control to become part of the Cidari academy trust from February next year.
A further four days of strikes are planned.
Cable manufacturer workers in Wrexham, Wales to hold additional strikes over pay
Around 200 workers at Prysmian cables in Wrexham, Wales will take further 24-hour strikes on December 11 and 17 for a pay rise.
The Unite union members are also carrying out an overtime ban. They have had no pay rise since 2019. Prysmian is an Italian company, with its headquarters in Milan, which produces cables used in energy and telecoms sectors as well as optical fibres. The company made a €840 million profit last year.
According to Unite, continuous strike action is planned for late in December.
Heavy Goods Vehicle drivers and warehouse workers at four UK distribution centres set to strike
1,200 Unite union members working as Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers and warehouse workers at four distribution centres, at Antrim and Belfast in Northern Ireland along with those at Doncaster and Didcot in England, are also set to strike. Those at Didcot and Doncaster will hold a 48 walkout on December 16, followed by a strike beginning December 20, for five days. This will be followed by a 48-hour strike on December 30, and then a three-day stoppage from January 5.
The Unite union members at the Antrim and Belfast distribution centres are due to begin a continuous strike December 16. Unite union members employed as HGV drivers and warehouse workers at its Livingston distribution centre in Scotland will walk out on December 20 until Christmas.
Outsourced workers at Vauxhall’s car factory in Luton, England to strike over pay
UK workers at outsourcing company Mitie, at Vauxhall’s Luton car plant were to begin a strike at 10pm Thursday, until Saturday morning.
The 30 workers will walk out again on December 17. The Unite union members work as cleaners and in the jig and tool rooms. They voted by a 96 percent to oppose poverty pay. They are currently on just £9 an hour, only 9p above the national minimum wage.
Refuse collection drivers in Coventry, England to strike over pay and conditions
Around 70 refuse collection drivers at Coventry City Council voted by a 98.5 percent majority to strike over pay and work arrangements over Christmas.
The Unite union members will strike from December 21 to 24, January 5 to 6 and January 11 to 14. The HGV drivers earn as little as £22,000 a year. There is a UK-wide shortage of HGV drivers, and other councils increased pay or made retention payments to keep refuse collection drivers.
Drivers and assistants providing transport for disabled children at London council vote unanimously to strike over pay and conditions
Drivers and passenger assistants responsible for transporting disabled children at Hackney council in London voted by 100 percent to strike over the council’s refusal to address their concerns.
The 37 Unite union members, who continued to work throughout the pandemic, accuse the council of not recognising their efforts. The issues include the council’s refusal to pay a regular yearly lump sum of £381 in full, its failure to pay a pandemic hazard payment, insufficient health and safety provision, including toilet access, and no uniform or relocation allowance.
A Unite press release announcing the ballot gave no strike dates. Unite was due to meet with Hackney council on Tuesday for talks.
Protest called for teacher at school in Huddersfield, England dismissed after raising COVID-19 concerns
Louise Lewis, a 38-year-old PE teacher at North Huddersfield Trust High School in Huddersfield, England received a letter in November dismissing her from her job.
Lewis, a National Education Union (NEU) representative, has worked at the school for 10 years. She was a popular teacher and attended the school as a pupil. She was suspended in October 2020, while attempting to carry out risk assessments regarding COVID-19. The NEU held a series of strikes in the spring to protest her suspension.
The suspension was pending a disciplinary hearing, which ruled in favour of Lewis. Her suspension was lifted, and she expected to begin the process of being reintegrated into school. However, senior leadership at the school stated they had “lost confidence” in her, and in November issued the letter dismissing her from her job.
A protest is planned for December 14 at 2pm, outside the Huddersfield Civic Centre calling for her reinstatement.
Overwhelming indicative vote for strike action by UK Girls’ Day School Trust teachers over pension attack
Teachers working for the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) in Britain voted by a 93 percent majority on a 93 percent turnout in an indicative ballot.
The National Education Union members are opposed to GDST’s proposal to withdraw from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. The GDST runs 23 independent schools across England and Wales. The NEU will hold a formal ballot for industrial action in January 2022.
The ballot was the first in the GDST’s 149-year history.
Drivers and other staff at Scottish logistics company ballot over pay offer
Around 200 workers at Carntyne Transport logistics firm, Scotland are balloting over an inadequate pay offer.
The Unite union members include drivers and warehouse staff. The drivers were offered a £1.12 an hour rise, taking their pay to £13.72 an hour. Other workers were offered a 16p an hour increase, taking their hourly pay to £9.96. Unite’s demand is for £15 an hour for drivers and a “significant” rise for other workers. The ballot closes December 15. The Glasgow-based company provides logistical services to several clients, including Diageo the alcoholic drinks company.
Consultative ballot of UK nurses returns a majority in favour of strikes
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members indicated in a consultative ballot they are willing to strike in opposition to a three percent pay offer.
In England, 54 percent of RCN members voted in favour in a turnout of 23 percent. In Wales, the majority was 56 percent on a 29 percent turnout, while in Scotland there was a 60 percent majority to strike on a near 30 percent turnout. In all three ballots there was around a 90 percent vote in favour of industrial action short of a strike.
An RCN press release of December 2 moved to delay an action, saying it would “now carefully consider the results and decide on next steps.”
Massive vote by UK probation officers to reject pay freeze
UK probation staff voted by a 99 percent majority to oppose a pay freeze.
The vote by NAPO union members follows votes in favour of two motions calling for industrial action at the recent NAPO annual general meeting in opposition to a pay freeze.
Despite the mandate, the union is currently not recommending any further action.
UK court workers vote in favour of industrial action in consultative ballot over introduction of new digital platform system
UK staff working for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) voted by more than 95 percent in a consultative ballot to be prepared to take industrial action over the introduction of a new digital platform, the Common Platform.
The turnout of Public and Commercial Services (PCS) members was 57 percent. They are opposed to the new platform, which was introduced in September last year. Workers fear it could lead to the loss of 3,000 jobs. Workers are also concerned that the platform had many technical problems, leading to delays and resultant stress for HMCTS workers.
A PCS press release announcing the ballot result called on the HMCTS to suspend the operation of the new platform, or the PCS would move to a ballot for industrial action.
London Underground strikes against Night Tube rostering continue
London Underground (LU) drivers will strike again this weekend over imposed rosters on the recently reopened Night Tube service. They are striking against the scrapping of dedicated drivers on the service.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members will walk out on the Central and Victoria lines for eight hours from Friday and Saturday evening. This follows strikes on these lines last weekend, and 24-hour walkouts on the Piccadilly, Jubilee, Victoria, Central and Northern lines the weekend before.
The Night Tube service, suspended at the start of the pandemic, was reintroduced two weeks ago as part of efforts to reopen the economy. Reopening it, Transport for London (TfL) scrapped a 2016 agreement that established a dedicated grade of Night Tube drivers.
Instead, all drivers will now be forced to work at least four weekend Night Tube shifts per year, which LU’s director of customer operations has called “reasonable.” The RMT reports that the Central and Victoria lines have already seen a “huge increase” in weekend working and drivers rostered to work Fridays.
The RMT offered to suspend the strikes and operate the disputed rosters “on a temporary basis” if drivers were only expected work Night Tube shifts on a voluntary basis requiring no more weekend working. The union also offered “more ongoing flexibility” so drivers might cover Night Tube shifts on a voluntary basis, but LU rejected their offer.
Ballot of London Underground rail system to take place against job cut threat
The RMT announced this week that it will ballot its 10,000 members working for the London Underground (LU) rail network.
The ballot runs from December 13 until January 10. LU plans to cut 600 jobs, as it faces a funding crisis. LU is 72 percent funded from fare revenue. The pandemic led to a big fall in revenues, as workers were furloughed or worked from home.
Consultative ballot of NHS workers in England over pay favours sustained action, union cites low turnout to shelve action
National Health Service (NHS) workers in England balloted by the Unison union returned a 77 percent majority in favour of striking against a three percent pay offer in a consultative ballot.
They were offered a three percent pay rise, but with RPI inflation at six percent this represents a cut in real terms. The value of health workers wages fell by 20 percent since the financial crash of 2008/9.
Unison moved to park the result, stating, “The consultative ballot did not bring responses from enough members to be confident that a formal ballot would meet the legal threshold to take action.”
Strike by bus drivers in North Wales called off by Unite union after pushing through a below-inflation pay deal
The strike of around 400 bus drivers working for Arriva Cymru in North Wales was called off by Unite, which accepted a below-inflation pay offer of three percent per year in a two-year deal.
The five-week stoppage began on November 14, after drivers voted by a 95 percent majority against low pay. Drivers voted to accept Arriva’s offer of £12 an hour.
GMB union suspends strike by staff at electrical appliance depot in Cardiff, Wales over pay
The GMB union suspended the strike by around 100 staff at Panasonic’s depot in Cardiff, Wales over a pay freeze.
Workers held three stoppages, but following Acas (government mediation services) talks, Panasonic came back with a pay offer. The offer is for a 5.5 percent pay increase plus a £300 bonus. The workers were to ballot on the new offer on Thursday.
PCS union announces deal for London Royal Park cleaners following programme of walkouts
London Royal Park cleaners voted to accept an offer from their employer, Just Ask Services.
Just Ask Services provides facility management services in the Royal Parks in the UK capital. Workers carried out a determined struggle of strikes including a month-long one in October. They were demanding an occupational sick pay scheme in line with staff directly employed by the London Royal Parks.
Under the agreement, Just Ask Services recognised the PCS union and agreed to pay contractual sick pay for three months plus other proposals.
Stoppages by auto workers in Tehran
In early December, strikes were held at the Iran Khodro auto plant in Tehran. The strike was taken up by some sections of the factory including the car body and assembly line. The issues included low wages and job classification.
Protests by Iranian teachers
On December 2, teachers held protests in 66 cities across Iran, including Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz. Their demands included increased pay and better living conditions.
Strikes called across Lebanon by transport sector union
On Wednesday, the head of the Unions of the Land Transport Sector called for strikes across Lebanon.
Strikes and protests were planned throughout the day, including in Beirut. They were called in response to the deteriorating economic crisis in Lebanon, which has left 75 percent of Lebanon’s six million population living in poverty.
Student protests by Iraqi Kurdish students in city of Slemani, Iraq
Iraqi Kurdish students held protests this week across the city of Slemani and barricaded the road outside Sulaymaniyah university, on its outskirts.
They were protesting the violent response to previous protests called against poor conditions and lack of basic facilities on the university campus. They also called for reinstatement of a stipend that was stopped by the Kurdistan regional government.