Tag Archives: workers

Though watched and muzzled, independent labour unions are stirring

From The Economist

DURING a Persian new year’s party (in late March) at Iran’s flagship South Pars project in the Persian Gulf, where the world’s largest known gasfield is being tapped, a labourer called on Iran’s workers to unite. Behnam Khodadadi demanded better pay and conditions, and a proper trade union. Around 1,500 workers stopped security guards from detaining Mr Khodadadi. A week later he was fired from his job at Iran Industrial Networks Development, a contractor for the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company. Mr Khodadadi may have been muzzled, but disaffection is growing among Iranian workers as inflation outpaces wage rises and workers are laid off. At the same time attempts to organise labour are being suppressed in the run-up to June’s presidential elections.

“They haven’t paid us for at least four months and I have to keep borrowing money,” says Jamshid, a 32-year-old industrial worker in Tehran, the capital. Last month the minimum wage was raised by 25%, to 4.87m rials ($140) a month, but even by official criteria this is one-third of what is deemed to be a living wage in the capital. The drop in the rial’s value means that, when it comes to the imports on which Iran relies, Iranian cash is worth barely a third of what it was in 2011, before the United States imposed sanctions on the country’s financial system.

Iran does not recognise independent unions, so workers have to make do with Islamic Labour Councils, which must be approved by employers and the security services. Reckoning that these councils are in cahoots with the government, workers tend to keep their grievances to themselves for fear of being sacked as troublemakers. Labour leaders are often imprisoned.

Ali Nejati and Reza Shahabi, who led sugarcane workers’ and bus drivers’ unions respectively, were recently freed under surveillance. Mr Shahabi is now in prison again, as is Muhammad Jarahi, who stands for petrochemical workers, and Shahrokh Zamani, a painter, all of them guilty of “endangering national security”. “Not having independent workers’ unions guarantees things will stay the same,” Mr Nejati recently told an Iranian radio station based in Germany. “As a workers’ representative I complained and I went to prison for it and was fired.”

Despite the long history of Iran’s labour movement and the big part its oil workers played in deposing the shah in 1979, Iran’s workers have witnessed a steady erosion of their bargaining power. After the revolution, independent workers’ councils won rights to such things as a 40-hour week and lodging allowances. They got rid of people who had worked for the shah’s intelligence service. But during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) the unions’ independence was destroyed. Under President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his successor, Muhammad Khatami, imports soared while Iran’s own manufacturing industry slumped. Unions have been further weakened by the reclassification of many workers as temporary.

Last month several bakers were arrested for allegedly organising their colleagues in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj. At the same time, workers at a tractor-making company in Tabriz, in the north-west, signed a letter accusing managers of “brutal treatment, intimidation and failing to pay wages”. “Authorities who always talk about justice in the Islamic republic should know that complete injustice prevails in this system,” they wrote.

“We are at the mercy of our employers,” says Mahmud, a Tehran street sweeper on his night shift, scraping rubbish out of an open gutter with a coarse wicker brush. “We almost never get the overtime pay we are entitled to but we can’t complain because we would be fired.” A senior municipal worker admits that thousands of non-unionised street sweepers, who clean the capital by night, often go months without pay. Last year the office of Muhammad Qalibaf, Tehran’s mayor and a presidential hopeful, commissioned a film called “Those Who Wear Orange” about a brainy university graduate who becomes a street cleaner—for love of the job.

May Day statement in support of workers in Iran

Over the last year workers in Iran have struggled on several fronts. The subsidy cuts coupled with the crisis in world capitalism are driving living standards down for the majority of Iranians. Basic food stuffs are rising in price at a phenomenal rate, with bread rising a massive 25% and unsubsidised fuel increasing 7 fold. This is in a country with the third largest oil reserves in the world and the necessary refining abilities to produce cheap and affordable fuel for the entire population. The sanctions regime continues to undermine Iranian industry, robbing many workers of their jobs whilst the elite continue to amass great wealth. We stand with the Iranian working class fighting austerity and call for an end to all sanctions. We also call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

 

There have been important centres of working class resistance where the working class has shown its strength. At the Alborz tyre factory in Iran over 800 workers have held protests outside of the presidential office after 9 months of unpaid wages. There has been a recurring struggle over wages being withheld on a regular basis since privatisation of the factory in 1991.

 

The state-run Haft Tapeh sugar cane factory workers have faced consistent repression and attempts to crush their union. Ali Nejati, the President of the Union, is in prison and in ill health facing further charges of endangering national security. This continued repression, failure to pay wages and the refusal of the management to allow sacked workers to return have forced workers to down tools and strike several times over the last 12 months.

 

The strikes in the Petrochemical industry starting on March 19 at the Imam Port complex were contagious and spread across the industry. The initial demands focused on ending the current contract system that offers only precarious work and little security. Thousands of workers have been on strike demanding the introduction of the 2005 directives on hiring.

 

At the Pars Paper Company over a thousand of workers struck in defence of 60 laid off workers who had been at the company for over 10 years. In Qazvin workers at multiple textile plants have struck against unpaid wages, with some workers going unpaid for over a year. They were also joined by workers from the city’s Ziaran slaughterhouse who have unpaid wage claims going back two years.

 

At Iran Khodro the overworked yet militant workforce has continued to be a beacon of resistance. In January 4 workers were killed and 13 injured as a worker who was ill and tired after repeated back-to-back shifts collapsed at the wheel of the truck he was driving. Workers immediately demonstrated and called on the CEO to resign. Scuffles broke out between security and revolutionary guards.

 

The protest movement that erupted in 2009 was savagely put down by the security forces with violence not witnessed since 1999. Many leaders and activists remain in jail, many have fled and gone underground and hundreds have been murdered. Yet flickers of open defiance continue and below the surface the Iranian masses have rejected the theocratic regime. It is only a matter of time until mass action will threaten the existence of the Islamic Republic.

 

The uprisings in the region are a nightmare vision of the future for the regime as the revolts creep closer to the border. The imperialists have also suffered defeats, with Mubarak, a lynchpin of their domination, falling along with Tunisia’s Ben Ali. Yemen’s Saleh is soon to go. In this chaotic atmosphere the war threat has increased as we must not rule out further military action by the imperialists to demonstrate their power and reassert political domination. As part of threatening war with Iran, Saudi troops have gone in to suppress the people in Bahrain. This is what the intervention in Libya is about: not protecting civilians. The current interventions in the region must end and there must be no attack on Iran.

 

Hands Off the People of Iran reiterates our commitment to oppose the war threat and sanctions whilst supporting the struggle against the theocratic regime.



Hands Off the People of Iran Steering Committee

May Day Demands

Iran’s workers will once again use May Day to remind the religious state and ‘reformist’ Islamists alike of their power, writes Yassamine Mather

As May Day approaches, Iranian workers are preparing demonstrations in Tehran and other major cities. Over the last few weeks everyone from ‘reformist’ leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from employers to labour groups, agrees that the number of workers’ protests and the radicalisation of their slogans marks a new phase in Iran.

Largely unseen by the world media, thousands of strikes, slow-downs and sit-ins by workers challenge the government’s drive to privatise the economy. Iran’s workers are also aware of their role in the overthrow of the shah and once again they will use May Day to remind the religious state and ‘reformist’ Islamists alike of their power. A recent statement by a coalition of workers’ organisations clarifies this: “We millions are the producers of wealth, the wheels of production. Society moves only because we move it” (The Epoch Times March 25).

Since the start of the Iranian new year (March 21) workers have protested against the setting of the official minimum wage at the equivalent of $303 per month. Six independent workers’ organisations have argued that this is a third of the poverty line, which is actually $900. There is also worker opposition to government attempts to abolish subsidies in line with IMF/World Bank diktat. However, what will distinguish this year’s May Day protests will be the political slogans – already seen on posters and leaflets distributed in Tehran and other major cities in Iran.

Many posters feature the slogan, ‘Death to the dictator’, alongside workers’ demands for the right to organise and the right to strike. Statements issued by workers’ organisation include demands for the freedom of all political prisoners and an end to the use of military and paramilitary forces against demonstrators and protesters. Teachers are preparing for a week-long strike starting on May 1 to demand an end to interference by the religious state in the school curriculum, as well as better wages and conditions.

Over the last few years workers attempting to celebrate May Day have been arrested and prosecuted – some have been sentenced to prison and lashings. The prominent labour leader, Mansour Ossanlou, remains in prison, along with other worker activists, such as Ebrahim Maddadi, Farzad Kamangar and Ghaleb Husseini. This May Day we should do all we can to defend these activists and join Iranian workers in their call for the release of all political prisoners in Iran.

The charter of workers’ minimum demands, jointly issued by Iran’s four main independent trade unions, includes:

  • Unconditional recognition of independent workers’ organisations, the right to strike, to organise protests, the freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of political organisation.
  • Abolition of the death penalty, and the immediate and unconditional release of jailed workers and other social activists.
  • Immediate increase in the minimum wage based on workers’ input through their representatives in workers’ general assemblies.
  • No abolition of subsidies. All unpaid wages should be paid immediately without any excuses.
  • Job security for workers and all wage-earners; an end to all temporary and so-called ‘blank signature’ contracts; removal of all government-run organisations from the workplace; drafting of a new labour law through direct participation of workers’ representatives elected by their general assemblies.
  • Abolition of all the discriminatory laws against women; the ensuring of full and unconditional equality of women and men in all social, economic, political, cultural and family fields.

From Weekly Worker 815

Call for Hunger Strike at Isfahan Steel Complex

Class struggle in Iran
Class struggle in Iran

RAHANA – Last week, a flier calling on contract workers to go on a hunger strike was distributed at the Isfahan Steel Complex.

Contract workers have suffered wage and benefit cuts since they became directly contracted by the factory. Currently, their wages and benefits are significantly below those of the company’s regular workers.

According to the Ad Hoc Council of Isfahan Steel Workers, following the distribution of the hunger strike flyer, the director made the tour of the plant and promised the unhappy workers that he would address their demands before the new year (March 21, 2010).

Meanwhile, the factory’s security made their own tour of the workshops, threatened the workers and told them their wages are not supposed to be equal to those of the regular workers of the factory.

Security officials asked the workers in charge of receiving and distribution of factory meals to identify the workers who were on hunger strike. The employees in charge of the locker rooms where the flyer had been distributed were summoned to the security office.

Following the promises made by the director, the situation has become more calm, and contract workers are waiting to see the outcome of his actions.

The contract workers, who were previously employed by private contractors, had high hopes when they were hired by the factory [on a contract basis], but most of them have suffered between 30 to 100 dollar wage reductions, and their overtime allowance has been limited to 45 hours. Their previous employers did not impose a limit on the number of overtime hours.

Translation by: RAHANA

From Persian2Engish

نارضایتی کارگران قرارداد مسقیم ذوب آهن اصفهان

جمعه , ۷ اسفند , ۱۳۸۸ @ ۴:۴۶ ب.ظ

اعتراض کارگران قرارداد مسقیم به اختلاف فاحش حقوق و مزایا با کارگران رسمی و مهم تر از آن کاهش حقوق و مزایا پس از تبدیل وضعیت از قرارداد با شرکت های پیمانکاری به قرارداد مستقیم با ذوب آهن است.

رهانا: هفته گذشته در کارخانه ذوب آهن اعلامیه هایی پخش شد که کارگران قرارداد مستقیم را به اعتصاب غذا فراخوانده بود. اعتراض این کارگران به اختلاف فاحش حقوق و مزایا با کارگران رسمی و مهم تر از آن کاهش حقوق و مزایا پس از تبدیل وضعیت از قرارداد با شرکت های پیمانکاری به قرارداد مستقیم با ذوب آهن بود.

به گزارش شورای موقت کارگران ذوب اهن اصفهان در پی این اقدام مدیرعامل ذوب آهن درسرکشی به قسمت های مختلف کارخانه با کارگران قرارداد مستقیم به گفتگو نشست وبه آنان قول بررسی خواسته های شان را تا آخر اسفند ماه داد.

از سوی دیگر به موازات این اقدام حراست و انتظامات کارخانه به گشت زنی در کارگاه ها پرداختند و در چندین کارگاه در گفتگو با کارگران به تهدید آنان پرداخته و عنوان کردند که قرار نیست کارگران قرارداد مستقیم از حقوق و مزایایی هم سطح با کارگران رسمی برخوردار شوند. آنان از کارگران مسئول غذا که به دریافت و توزیع غذای کارگران شیفت می پردازند نیز خواستند اسامی کارگرانی را که اعتصاب غذا می کنند به حراست گزارش دهند. در اقدامی دیگر مسئولان رختکن هایی که در آنها اعلامیه توزیع شده بود به حراست احضار شده و تحت فشار قرار گرفتند.

با توجه به قول مساعد مدیرعامل مبنی بر بررسی خواسته های این کارگران تا حد زیادی از التهابات کاسته شده و فعلا آنان منتظرند تا مدیرعامل جدید نتیجه بررسی هایش را اعلام کند. لازم به یادآوری است که قرارداد مستقیم بستن با کارگران شرکت های پیمانکاری در آستانه انتخابات آغاز شد و امیدهای زیادی را در بین آنان برانگیخت اما در وضعیت جدید حقوق اکثر این کارگران از سی الی صد هزار تومان کاهش یافته و سقف اضافه کاری که در شرکت ها نامحدود بود به ۴۵ ساعت محدود شده است.

A Statement by Iran Khodro Car Workers – December 6 2009

A Statement by Iran Khodro Car Workers – December 6 2009

Fellow workers and friends,

During the last few days tens of workers, students and grieving mothers [a reference to mothers of young people killed following protest gatherings on December 4] have been arrested and sent to jail. Many of our colleagues and fellow workers are in prison. Tens of students, who are our children and our allies, are incarcerated. Mothers have been held. The government is closing its eyes to reality and arresting anyone they want. The country is under the grip of security forces and people do not even have the right to gather in a public park.

– In which country is it illegal to demand payment of unpaid wages?

– In which country is it forbidden to go to a park or to climb mountains? [The regime has banned students from climbing in case they organise political meetings under the guise of mountain climbing]

– What is the crime of our grieving mothers?

– In which country is it illegal to form workers’ organisations?

Fellow workers, how dare they be so shameless? We must protest! The situation created by the government is unbearable. Freedom is a basic right of all human beings

Long live freedom!

Group of Iran Khodro Workers
Translated and distributed by Hands Off the People of Iran
http://www.hopoi.org

Crepe Naz workers go on strike

Two hundred and fifty workers at the Crepe Naz textiles factory in Harsin County (in Kermanshah Province, western Iran) stopped work on 12-15 September to protest against not being paid their wages for the past four months.

The Crepe Naz factory is affiliated to Mellat Bank and operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Industries and Mines. Its workers work a three-shift pattern in a day.

During the strike representatives from Harsin County governor’s office, the county’s Labour Office and the Kermanshah Province governor’s office, visited the factory to assess the situation. In the end, fearing that they might be sacked using the factory’s bankruptcy as an excuse, the workers accepted that their unpaid wages can be paid in ‘two instalments’ and went back to work.

The workers agreed that to begin with they would accept 200,000 tomans ($202.47) as the ‘first instalment’ and that in late September they would receive the remaining 275,000 tomans ($253.09) of their wages. They also issued an ultimatum to their employer that if they are not paid all their backpay by late October then they would go on strike again.


Source: The Free Trade Union of Iranian Workers
Translation: Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network.