The ever-surging nationwide strikes all across Iran

ISICRC Reports

During recent month, Iran has been hit with a tsunami of strikes, as employees in several key sectors of the economy stopped work in quick succession. The series of strikes that has boiled over in the month of October is largely a resumption of the labor unrest that marked the early summer; ceased after the regime acceded to many of the workers’ demands. However, no action was actually taken to fulfill the promises made, so once again workers have taken to the streets to call for what is due them. The major groups of striking workers include:

  • Truck Drivers

The main difficulties truck drivers face are low wages, the high costs of truck insurance and spare parts, and shortages of tires. Hyperinflation has exacerbated these problems. The regime promised in June, in the agreement that ended the last truck drivers’ strike, to raise their salaries and lower their expenses, but nothing was done about it afterwards.

  • Shopkeepers

Small tradespeople, including carpet sellers and currency traders, are furious at how their markets are restricted due to unfair competition from regime-linked black marketeers  and other corrupt dealers.

  • Teachers

Teachers are some of the most downtrodden members of society in Iran. They are paid very low salaries, discriminated against based on their perceived political views, and have to work in dilapidated classrooms because of the regime’s lack of funding for education. They are also greatly opposed to plans for privatizing the Iranian education system under the Khomeiniist regime, and feel that the national curriculum is not conducive to Iranian students intellectual development.

  • Retirees

Hyperinflation has left a significant majority of Iranian pensioners with incomes well below the poverty line. They are exasperated by the regime’s refusal to address their concerns in offering any form of social assistance or aid, while the regime’s authorities spend exorbitant amounts on their military expansion and foreign aggressions.

In addition to the above examples, strikes in other parts of the country spread as workers at various industries and trade who have not been paid in months – in some cases over a year – desperately attempt to obtain their salary and benefits arrears.

A Timeline of Events

Truck Drivers Strike

September 22nd – Truck drivers went on strike in over 10 cities, including Tehran’s suburb Karaj, Esfahan, Mashhad, Qazvin, Dezful, Boroujerd, Urmieh, Bandar Abbas, Yazd, Pol’eh Dokhtar and Shiraz. The strike began after a call went out over social media for the two preceding weeks, and was joined by hundreds of drivers, of all kinds except for fuel tankers.

Picketers in Karaj

The strike was extensive but did not receive much news coverage due to the dubious terrorist attack at the regime’s military parade in Ahwaz. Truck drivers did not make their deliveries; instead they parked along the roadsides, stood, and protested.

 

Picketers in Mashad

September 23rd –  Strikes continued and spread. Police in various places threatened drivers but no action was taken against them.

September 24th  – Fuel tanker drivers began going on strike, on the third day. Drivers are said to have to stopped working in 90-100 cities. Food prices are rising due to lack of deliveries. Reports allege that drivers currently transporting goods to Turkey and Europe are being recalled to work in Iran.

Below:  A video of a regime supporter crashing his truck into a striking driver’s truck on the road between Abadan and Shadegan.

September 26th – The national truck and tanker drivers strike continues into a fifth day, amid reports that police arrested a number of protesting drivers. 

Below:  A video of striking drivers along the route between Ahwaz and Shoosh

 

Tanker drivers striking, fuel stations in various cities are facing gasoline shortages, and factories are reporting disruptions and lack of raw materials arriving. The drivers are demanding a 70% pay increase, saying they will not settle for less.

Picketers in Esfahan

 

Colonel Mohammadi, Police media spokesman in the Province of Fars called the picketing drivers “opportunists” and “hoodlums” who “intend to destroy the public trucking infrastructure and spread disorder throughout Fars province.”

Below: A truck set on fire during a clash with regime forces.

 

Mehr News Agency reports Colonel Mohammadi announcing the Fars police force arrest and detention of a number of drivers. Each driver was charged and transferred to prison for disturbing order on the roads. He said that the police and judiciary will not tolerate the smallest infraction against security. The number of arrested is not yet known.

October 12th – After three weeks, the truck drivers’ strike has spread to 320 cities, and the regime continues to refuse the demands of the picketers.

Ali Saberi, secretary of the poultry producers association, said: “Corn and soybeans have been imported but because of the strike, transporting them has been very difficult. There is little to no time left to resolve this situation, without their feed, chickens are hungry and unable to produce eggs. We are facing great difficulty. Over one hundred million chickens are slaughtered, and for each one, 4 kilograms of fish are consumed as food. This is a thumbnail account of what we are dealing with. If the strike continues, and only 40-50 loads are processed each day, the poultry industry will face a disaster. Therefore, we call on the authorities to quickly and vigorously resolve the situation.”

Below: More from Esfahan

 

Following the statements of support from the Teamsters in the USA, the Italian trade union federation, the Danish Transport Workers Federation, which boast 50,000 members, declared solidarity with Iranian truck drivers.

Regime authorities have also taken to personally threatening drivers in the media. During a speech, Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary, called truck drivers “enemies,” emphasizing that all those who breached road security, will be severely punished. Prosecutors in Karaj and Qazvin have accused picketers as being “the most corrupt on earth” and “acting against national security”, adding that they deserve the death penalty.  Hossein Ashtari, head of the national police, has previously called striking drivers “bandits,” and also threatened them with execution.

On October 12th, the International Transport Workers Federation condemned the death penalty charges for 17 drivers. Stefan Cotton, head of the organization said: “The death penalty for striking is the most serious of violations of workers’ rights; it’s inhumane and unthinkable,” he said. “From what we understand, Iran’s truckers took action as a last resort in the struggle to feed their families. The threat of the death penalty is utterly disproportionate.” Cotton also asked the International Labor Organization, which Iran is a founding member, to look into the case. Reports indicate that approximately 300 picketers have been arrested. Some were released on bail but their number is unknown. Some of those still detained are social media activists.

Truck drivers who travel abroad now face more problems as well. Morteza Safari Natanzi, head of the Islamic Parliament (Majles) commission on Foreign Relations said that due to bank sanctions, licenses and insurance for international travel could no longer be procured. The licenses, called “Carnet Tir”, are issued by a Swiss company, but money can no longer be transferred to buy them. He added that regime officials are trying to address the issue.

October 13tth  The second truck drivers’ strike has been more widespread than the first, 236 cities in 30 provinces whereas the first one in May only reached 160 cities in 7 provinces over an 18 day period.

The two truck drivers’ strikes in May and September, are the longest strikes in the history of the Islamic regime. 

Over recent weeks, picketers demands have also become more structured and taken on a more clear petitions, such as: lower fares, reduced fuel quotas, lowering costs of tires and oil, calculating fares based on ton-kilometers, raising pensions, deducting insurance premiums, removing brokers from terminals, monitoring traffic official misconduct, and punishing officers who demand bribes.

October 20th – Four more international trade unions, the International Federation of Trade Unions, the International Industries Union, Education International, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations, with a combined membership of 200 million workers, have issued statements supporting Iranian truck drivers and their right to strike.

October 21st  Abbas Akhondi, the Minister of Roads and Transports, was forced to resign after he urged his colleagues to make concessions to the truck drivers. Impeachment proceedings had already been brought against him in the Islamic Majles. Severe shortages of gasoline and food are reported in various places.

October 24th – Thousands of truck and taxi drivers protested in Tehran against municipal taxes that were enacted last year. The drivers held up banners containing a list of their demands.

Shopkeepers on Strike

October 8th – Shopkeepers in Tehran, Tabriz, Mashhad, Isfahan, Kermanshah, Sanandaj and Orumiyeh kept their businesses closed in solidarity with truck drivers, as well as in protest against the hyperinflation that’s destroying their livelihoods. The Grand Bazar in Tehran, however, remained open.

Below: Footage of closed shops

 

Teachers on Strike

October 14th – Teachers began their two-day strike by going to school but not holding classes. The national strike was called for by Iran’s central council of teachers’ organizations. In its call to strike, the central council announced: “The sit-in is the beginning of a new era of our strikes, and if there are no changes in the rights of employees, retirees, and students, we will protest again next month. Now that inflation has sent the price of life skyrocketing and the purchasing power of teachers and workers has become very low, the education budget is nearly exhausted, and the Majles and administration have not brought anything to the table for older or retired teachers. We are also protesting the distressing situation facing our educational system.” Further in the statement, it reads: “Rather than the security forces and judiciary’s arresting thieves and corrupt individuals, they threaten, expel, detain, and imprison teachers.”

Below: Teachers walking out in Kermanshah

October 15th – Thousands of teachers went on strike and posted their protests on social media. Teachers have also written manifestos condemning “teacher discrimination,” demanding a teacher rating system, the freeing of all imprisoned teachers, no privatizing schools, and educational justice.

Below: Teachers show their protests and sit-ins.

 

Below: Teachers explain why they go on strike, to their students.

 

 

Meanwhile, the Khomeiniist regime’s state-run media either ignored the strikes or blame it on the economic conditions in the wake of the coming November sanctions.

Below: A teacher explains cultural problems: “With this educational system, people are discouraged by the prospect of getting an education, teachers of teaching, and students do not learn anything. The only cure is fundamental change.”

 

The Ministry of Education, the security forces and the judiciary tried to end the strike quickly with threats and intimidation. Mohammed-Reza Ramezenzadeh, head of the central council of teacher organizations in Khorasan, was arrested on Sunday, the first day of the strike.

According to reports, the Ministry of Education and security forces were putting pressure on school administrators to reopen classrooms as soon as possible. Teachers were sitting in their offices, refusing to hold classes. In some schools, students joined them. Short videos were posted by parents of the students, in solidarity with teachers chanting: “Teacher, you are not alone.”

October 19th – Two teachers remain under detention and several others have been summoned to court. Other than Mohammed-Reza Ramezenzadeh, Mohammad Ghanbari was also arrested on October 13th, on the first day of the two day teachers strike. Additionally, an unknown number of teachers in Tehran, Qazvin, Bojnourd, Saqqez, Marivan, Kermanshah and Aligoudarz were summoned to appear in court on October 20th by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The teachers union’s Telegram channel was also shut down by the regime.

October 23rd –  Hashem Khastar, a 65 year old retired teacher and union leader in Khorasan was abducted by Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps officers from his Mashad and involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. The IRGC has prohibited Khastar from receiving visitors. His family said that he has no history of mental problems prior to his abduction. Khastar has previously been imprisoned for his political activism, most recently between 2009 and 2011. In January 2018, he wrote an article calling Khamenei a dictator.

October 24th – In Tehran, PhD students protested outside the Majles over the lack of  jobs, while students at Amir Kabir University protested against the incompetence of their faculty. In Sanandaj, Open University students protested against the elimination of the nursing department.

Retirees on Strike

October 16th – Pensioners gathered across Iran, with the largest protest held in front of the Planning and Budget Organization in Tehran, to protest the plummeting value of their fixed income salaries. Jamshid Taghizadeh, head of the National Retirement Fund, was quoted as saying that the elderly have lost 2/3 of their purchasing power. Slogans chanted by the protesters included “”The Constitution gives the right to hold rallies and protest marches”, “Workers, Nurses unify, unify!” “Based on the law, the salary of the active and retired employees should be equal.” Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson, tweeted her support.

October 27th – Retired bank employees from around the country came to Tehran to demand pension increases.

Smaller Strikes

October 14th – The staff of the Imam Khomeini hospital in Karaj, including office workers, service people, nurses and doctors, went on strike. They are owed 12-24 months wages and insurance benefits. Alborz province officials have continued to vow since last year to address their issues, but on Sunday morning 250 employees resumed their protest due to failure failure to do so.

October 15th – Three hundred municipal workers in Shooshtar, Khuzestan protested over not having been paid in several months.  The workers gathered in front of the city’s administration, after hearing that a meeting was going to be held with the governor, city council, and the mayor of Shooshtar, so that the officials could hear their demands.

A few days earlier, labor activists released a report saying that workers were only paid half their wages for March, and that was all they’ve received since last year. Labor activists also said that in addition to the back wages, their health insurance premiums have not been paid either, and since July, the Shooshtar Social Security Agency has refused to renew their medical insurance coverage. During the same period, drug prices have risen by 100-300%.  The report added that their employers are trying to prevent them from protesting.

October 18th – Reports indicate that bakers are considering going on strike, due to their dissatisfaction with the regime’s price controls reducing their incomes.

October 23rd – Municipal workers in Lushan, Gilan province, went on strike after not being paid in four months. The workers complained several times to city officials but never received any answers. Municipal workers in Ahwaz also went on strike.

October 24th – Workers at the Alborz Industrial Plant in Qazvin went on strike in protest over not having been paid in 14 months. Workers at the Haft Tappeh state agribusiness complex in Khuzestan also went on strike, due to their being overworked.

October 27th –  The 7,000 workers of Travers, Iran’s railway maintenance company went on strike in Hormozgan, Shahroud, Damghan, Semnan, Zagros and Lorestan provinces. The workers are owed more than three months back pay, and this is their third strike. Previous ones in July and August ended with promises that the arrears would be paid, but nothing was ever provided.

October 29th – 15 workers at the HEPCO heavy machine factory in Arak who had been arrested for striking in the spring were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to two years, and 74 lashes each. Since the factory was privatized in 2007, workers have recurrently not been paid for months at a time. Workers also went on strike today at the Farabi Petrochemical plant in Bandar e Khomeini, in Khuzestan.