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Source: RFE/RL

May 1, 2024

Trucker Protests Over Fuel Cuts Feed Labor Unrest Sweeping Iran

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda

A surge of labor unrest, buffeted by widespread protests over sharp cuts to fuel quotas for truck drivers, has swept across Iran as economic hardship and poor living standards wrack the country’s workforce.

Several cities and provinces have seen large-scale protests by truck drivers in recent days ahead of the May 1 international labor day holiday, as they vent their anger of a cut in monthly fuel allocations from 3,000 liters to just 500 liters.

The reduction in fuel quotas has increased costs for operators, in turn raising the prices of goods and services for the broader population.

The protests have coincided with other protests by retired workers and in various industrial sectors across the country, which is reeling from the bite of economic sanctions on the economy over Tehran’s nuclear program.

In Arak, retired workers voiced their discontent against what they perceive as government mismanagement of the economy, while workers from Pars Paper Mill in Haft Tappeh and retirees in Shush rallied against local officials, demanding accountability and improved living conditions.

Local authorities in several regions, including Dashtyari, have reportedly ignored the protests, leading to increased frustration among the demonstrators.

According to the Free Union of Iranian Workers, the local governor in Dashtyari left his office without engaging with the protesters, exacerbating tensions.

In an attempt to quell dissent ahead of International Workers Day, several labor and social activists in Sanandaj were summoned and interrogated by local intelligence services, rights groups said.

Unrest -- including months of protests by workers -- has rattled Iran in recent years in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of welfare support.

Labor Ministry data show Iran's poverty rate doubled in 2021, with one-third of the population living in "extreme poverty." Since then, conditions have failed to improve.

In September 2023, Iran's Misery Index, calculated by the Iranian Statistics Center, rose to 60.4 -- its highest point ever and more than double what it was six years ago. The higher the rating, the worse off people feel.

Labor laws in Iran do not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

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