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Source: IranWire

Apr 25, 2023

Strike Movement Spreading in Iran over Wages, Living Conditions


The strike movement is spreading in Iran, where workers from the oil sector and other industries are protesting inadequate wage rises amid spiraling inflation.

According to the Council for Organizing Protests of Oil and Gas Contract Workers, at least 30 companies in oil and gas projects, refineries, mines and steel factories are now being hit by strikes, which have been ongoing for months. 

In the latest round of protests, which started on April 21, contract workers are calling for a 79 percent wage increase, a reduction in working hours and days, an improvement in accommodation conditions and safer work environments.

The workers have rejected a proposal by the Supreme Labor Council, which consists of representatives of workers, employers and the government, to raise the minimum wage for workers by 27 percent, while the inflation rate has been running at around 50 percent for the past year.

“This year's wage increase for workers is not enough to address the terrible inflation,” an employee of the Gachsaran Petrochemical project who wished to remain anonymous tells IranWire. 

“In most oil, gas and petrochemical projects granted to contractors, contracts are signed in dollars and euros.

However, workers receive the lowest possible payment in rial (the national currency), and often receive payment every few months. This strike aims to change this situation, and we will continue until we achieve our goal," he says.

"Our news is not being covered by the media in Iran,” the worker adds. “Officials in the Ministry of Oil and the Ministry of Labor have remained silent, and the Labor House (a state-affiliated body handles issues like unemployment and workplace conditions), which usually prioritizes the interests of employers over workers, has ignored this strike."

Widespread anti-government protests sparked by the September 2022 death of a young woman in police custody breathed new life into the workers’ demonstrations. Strikes launched in multiple locations last year were violently suppressed by the security forces, which arrested at least 250 oil and gas contract workers.

Peyman Shajirati, a labor activist and former worker at Khuzestan National Steel Group, says that “the primary demand of the new campaign is to increase wages by 79 percent and establish labor contracts based on a 20-day work month.” 

Shajirati emphasizes that project workers lack long-term contracts and often work without any contract, which means they can be easily fired.

“Furthermore, project workers are deprived of basic facilities in their accommodations, such as proper refrigerators, and lack essential safety equipment like helmets, gloves and masks, which either are unavailable or are ill-fitting,” he added.

Shajirati insists that these issues have been brought to the attention of contracting companies many times. He accuses these companies of creating conditions for contract workers that amount to slavery.

Huge Financial Losses for the Regime

The labor activist points out that the ongoing strike movement is hitting one of the most highly secured industries in Iran and has involved around 100,000 workers since April 21.

“This dispersion and scale is especially noteworthy because trade unions in Iran are not allowed to have independent organizations or unions outside of government control,” he says.

According to Shajirati, the strikes have caused massive financial losses to the owners of the affected projects, which are controlled mainly by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, military institutions and government-related organizations.

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