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Three representatives of the International Labor Organization (ILO) have been allowed to meet an unknown number of independent Iranian labor activists in Tehran, reports say.

It is not yet clear where and under what conditions the meeting took place.

The ILO’s Ditti Anders, Ariel Castro, and Sanchir Tugschimeg were the official guests of Iran’s Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare Ministry during their visit to Tehran from April 20 to 23.

On April 23, state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) cited Anders as saying, “The main goal of the ILO’s delegation visiting Tehran is getting more acquainted with Iranian labor and employers’ interaction.”

An Iranian member of Canada’s Labor Congress and a consultant at the International Trade Union Confederation, Mehdi Kouhestaninejad, told Radio Farda, “The ILO delegation visited Tehran to review the situation for implementing Conventions 87 and 97 of the international body in Iran.”

Protest in tehran to free an imprisoned labor activist. Security forces areested more activists at this protest. December, 2017
Protest in tehran to free an imprisoned labor activist. Security forces areested more activists at this protest. December, 2017

Article 2 of Convention 87 stipulates, “Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, to join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization.”

According to Article 3 of the same convention, workers’ and employers’ organizations have the right to draw up constitutions and rules, to elect representatives in full freedom, to organize their administration and activities, and to formulate programs.

“The public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof,” the article continues.

Article 4 of the convention maintains that the “workers’ and employers’ organizations shall not be liable to be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority.”

According to Convention 98, “Workers shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment.”

Workers protest in the southern oil producing region of Khuzestan, March 2018.
Workers protest in the southern oil producing region of Khuzestan, March 2018.

Although Iran is one of the oldest members of the ILO, it does not officially recognize independent trade unions, which have repeatedly criticized Iran for not implementing the ILO conventions.

Iranian authorities, meanwhile, maintain they have “good interactions” with independent trade unions.

Defenders of human rights point out that, during nearly four decades of the current regime in Iran, scores of labor rights activists have been detained and incarcerated, charged with baseless security-related excuses.

Workers in Iran are not only deprived of having independent unions but deprived of holding peaceful assemblies, as well, according to activists.

Article 27 of the Iranian Constitution stipulates, however, “Public assemblies and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”

Iranian workers are also deprived of the right to strike and protest against unfair wages or unacceptable work conditions. Protesters and strikers are often fired and risk detainment, and labor leaders often face long prison sentences on trumped-up national security charges.

In 2003, Iran’s labor minister, with the support of intelligence agents and security forces, tried to prevent independent labor activists from meeting with representatives of the ILO who were visiting Tehran.

Two of the labor activists, Mahmoud Salehi and Mohsen Hakimi, managed to jump over a fence and have a brief meeting with the ILO delegation.

The details concerning the recent meeting between ILO representatives and an “unknown number” of labor activists in Tehran has not yet been disclosed.

However, it was officially announced that the meeting took place after the labor ministry contacted “a number of independent labor activists” and “invited” them to participate in a session attended by the ILO’s representatives.

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