Latest on Iran’s Strikes: Escalation and Violence
Nov. 16 – 30th, 2018
This is the third part of ISICRC’s continuing coverage of the national labor uprising. Parts 1 and 2 can be read here and here.
November 16th – In an effort to appease labor unrest and widespread strikes, the Rouhani administration promised today that the minimum wage would be raised by 20% at the beginning of the next Iranian year (March 21st). However, in just the last eight months, the minimum wage has lost between 70-90% of its purchasing power, so workers feel this is far below what they need to survive on. Nasser Chamani, general association of workers unions representative, pointed out that the average wage in Iran today only buys one third of what is considered a minimal living standard.
GoldStone Tire company, which employed 1500 workers, declared bankruptcy today. The workers had been on strike after not receiving their salaries for several months.
Tempers flared, and a fight broke out at a mosque in Shush today, after a regime spokesman insulted the picketing workers of the Haft Tappeh sugar complex by saying that they acting as the puppets of the enemy. The workers responded by screaming “liar! Liar!” and “we are the nation, you are the enemy!”
November 17th – Esmail Bakhshi, leader of the Haft Tappeh workers union said today that government officials, including Rouhani’s first deputy Eshagh Jahangiri, wilfully neglecting workers and that the strike would not end until officials had been arrested and charged. Anti-riot police surrounded the protesting workers today but did not take any action against them. Bakhshi warned the police officers that it is wrong to shoot the people they are supposed to be serving and protecting. The workers wives and children accompanied them as they took their protest to the streets.
Also, in Shush, a group of sugar beet farmers, working for the Dezful sugar company went on strike over non-payment of wages.
Municipal workers in the north western town of Aabbar (province of Zanjan) went on strike today, protesting outside the city council. The workers, who have not been paid in months, are employed by a firm that is subcontracted and owned by a city council member.
November 18th – The strike at the Haft Tappeh sugar agro-industrial complex in Shush continues into its second week. Today, students, shopkeepers, and members of the general public joined the women and men workers protesting in the streets.
The 150 employees of the Imam Khomeini Hospital in Karaj, who haven’t been paid in two years, continued their protest today against the Alborz provincial administration.
November 19th – Copper miners at the Chadormalu mine in Yazd province have gone on strike, saying that the current economic situation is no longer liveable. The miners’ union has declared solidarity with the workers of Haft Tappeh, saying that workers bargaining power can only improve by unity.
Eighteen people were arrested today at Haft Tappeh, including the fifteen leaders of the workers union such as Esmail Bakhshi and Moslem Ermand. Sepideh Gholian, a female journalist, and two company directors, from the equipment and transportation sectors, who had joined the workers in their protest were also among those who were detained. The Khuzestan provincial authorities, including GholamReza Shariati, the Governor, have stated they are ready to negotiate a settlement with the workers, but their proposal was vetoed by the Ministry of Intelligence, which considers the strike illegal and criminal. The Regime state media continues to refuse coverage of the strike.
The special units and security forces thugs of the Islamic Republic attacked the peaceful protest of Iranian labors who are protesting for their rights in the city of Shush, #Khuzestan. #IslamicRegimeMustGo#WeWillReclaimIran#نیشکرهفت_تپه pic.twitter.com/JIUb0g6HeI
— 💎👑 بهرام گور (@Bahram_Gooor) November 23, 2018
The Ahvaz steel complex workers, who are also on strike, joined the Haft Tappeh employees in demanding the release of the 18 arrested. Joining the protest in solidarity were students of Allahmeh Tabatabai University.
#BREAKING: Workers of Haft-Tappeh Sugar Cane complex and #Ahvaz steel factory have returned to streets of #Shush & #Ahvaz protesting against #Iran‘s Islamic Regime over months of unpaid wages. In this video factory workers call for support of the Opposition leader, #RezaPahlavi. pic.twitter.com/uvNdOpNS45
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) November 20, 2018
Ahvazi protesters continue to resist against pressures by the Iranian security forces.They’ve been protesting for days without getting any response from the gov. Now they have slogans like “Job,Bread and Freedom.”
In countries like Iran, strikes are unlikely to change behaviours. pic.twitter.com/nYi9fjDTqp
— Raman Ghavami (@Raman_Ghavami) November 20, 2018
One thousand Iranian workers at the Masjed’eh-Soleyman petrochemical factory went on strike today, protesting the abusive treatment of Iranian workers at the hands of the factory’s Chinese employees.
Yesterday, an Iranian welder was hospitalized with a broken skull after being struck on the head with a metal pipe, by a Chinese foreman. The Iranian workers have long complained of abuse at the hands of the Chinese staff. During one incident, the workers set fire to bicycles belonging to the Chinese employees. This resulted in ongoing serious confrontations between the Iranians and the Chinese.
The US State Department Tweeted its support for the Iranian workers.
Khamenei claims there is no “real” democracy in the world like Iran’s democracy. A reminder: Real democracies don’t arrest laborers for peacefully protesting about their unpaid salaries. #کارگران_هفت_تپه
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) November 19, 2018
November 20th – Fourteen of the 18 arrested at Haft Tappeh yesterday were released, but union leaders Esmail Bakhshi, Moslem Ermand, Hassan Fazeli, and Mohammad Khannifar remain detained. The strike continues as workers demand the four be freed. Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) TV ran its first report on the strike today.
In Tehran, crowds of workers and retirees protested outside the regime’s Worker House, on the anniversary of the adoption of the Labor Law. They chanted slogans such as “Employment, Livelihood, Decent Wages,” “Decent Wages are our Right” and “No Law can take away Workers Rights.” AliAsghar Bayat, Director of the pensioners association, mentioned that “meat and bread are no longer affordable for retiree families.” Hossein Habibi, one of the board members of the Islamic Labor Council talked about how private contractors are not enforcing the official labor laws. AliReza Mahjoub, Islamic Parliament (Majles) representative, spoke in support of the Haft Tappeh workers and others throughout Iran who have not received their salaries.
Regime officials offered to pay one months’ wages to the Ahvaz steel workers, with the promise to eventually pay all the months of backpay, in return for ending the strike, but the workers refused and said they would not return to work until they are paid all that they are owed.
November 21st – The four Haft Tappeh union leaders were charged with disturbing public order and threatening national security, and were refused bail. Karim Yavari, Deputy Minister of Labor, visited the picketing workers but they refused to negotiate with him after realizing that he had nothing new to offer them.
November 22nd – Haft Tappeh workers protested outside the Shush county office building demanding the release of their union leaders. A group of regime counter protesters calling themselves “Revolutionary Worker-Followers of The Supreme Leader” harassed them and started fistfights. Later that day, 3 of the 4 were released on bail, but Esmail Bakhshi remains imprisoned.
Today some Mullahs went to the gathering place of Haft Tappeh workers with Khamenei’s pictures in their hands and started to perform noon prayer but none of the works performed it with them.#iran#اعتصابات_سراسری #هفت_تپه pic.twitter.com/xFKTlWCakk
— Sahneh Iran (@SahnehIran) November 23, 2018
November 24th – Police tried to prevent the Ahvaz steel workers from protesting but the workers forcefully pushed their way through the barriers and continued to the county office building.
#BREAKING: Security forces of #Iran‘s Islamic Regime had blocked the Naderi bridge of #Ahvaz on steel factory workers who were protesting against the regime over months of unpaid wages, but protesters managed to pass the roadblock & walk toward governor’s building. pic.twitter.com/HkQvt8lhj8
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) November 24, 2018
November 25th – Farmers in the Province of Esfahan who have been suffering severe drought disrupted pipelines carrying water to the city of Yazd. The farmers who have been protesting for several months in order to have water delivered to their fields, blame the regime’s water management policies for taking water from rural lands, to divert to cities. Their protests however have been wilfully ignored by the authorities.
Nov 25 – Central #Iran
Qarneh village, near the city of Ziar, east of Isfahan
Clashes reported between security forces farmers protesting lack of access to water and the mismanagement of water sources by the government. pic.twitter.com/BTVJVK5AYl
— IRAN HRM (@IranHrm) November 25, 2018
November 27th – At present, one year has passed since the last time the staff of the Imam Khomeini Hospital in Karaj has been paid. The hospital closed six months ago, when workers went on strike to protest not being paid for the previous six months. During this period, the Alborz provincial authorities have refused to do address any of their issues.
Ali Reza Mahjoub, Islamic Parliament (Majles) representative, said today that over 2000 companies that have been being privatized since the Ahmadinejad administration, have violated labor laws and not paid their employees. Other Majles representatives, including Seyed Hassan Hosseini Shahroudi, vice chairman, have concurred in saying that privatization was a failure, not because of the principles of private management, but because privatization resulted in the transfer of state assets into the hands of regime-linked corrupt individuals.
November 28 – One of the picketing Ahvaz steel workers gave an impassioned speech today, saying “I’m a worker, and I’m telling you, you made a mistake, if you think that you could hide among us, you made a very big mistake if you thought that, we don’t buy friends, and we won’t leave the streets until we chop off the hands of the Mafia. I repeat, we will not leave until we chop off all of their hands!”
Below: A clip of the speech
November 29th – Ali Nejati, the former head of the Haft Tappeh workers union was arrested with his son today at his home, without a court order. The current union leader, Esmail Bakhshi, remains imprisoned.