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Labor Unrest Surfaces Again In Iran

Iran - Haft Tapeh Sugar Factory Building.
Iran - Haft Tapeh Sugar Factory Building.

Strikes at Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Mill and Iran National Steel Industry Group (INSIG) in city of Ahvaz, southwest Iran, has gained momentum after three days.

Workers of all divisions of Haft Tapeh sugarcane mill held their protest assembly for the third consecutive day outside of the mills’ security offices, Monday, August 20, the factory’s labor union reported.

While demanding their three-month overdue wages, the strikers are protesting job insecurity and lack of implementation of safety rules at their industrial complex.

Furthermore, the enraged workers are against dividing the land owned by the mill and distributing it among newly established companies.

The Haft Tapeh workers have intermittently been protesting and striking since 2014 when their complex was privatized.

Haft Tapeh labor union says, "Not only the workers have not received their salaries for months and no New Year bonus, they are being subjected to legal prosecution instead of their employer being held responsible".

Moreover, Free Workers Union of Iran (FWU)reported that Haft Tapeh workers have bitterly protested their fellows being battered by security forces on Sunday.

Special Unit forces, according to labor sources, stormed into Haft Tapeh workers rally on Sunday, battered the protesters and briefly arrested five workers.

Moreover, according to FWU, workers at Iran National Steel Industrial Group (INSIG) held a protest rally on Monday, August 20, outside a building owned by Bank Melli in Ahvaz.

INSIG workers are demanding product lines to be restored, injection of raw material for production and disclosing the identity of the individuals who are responsible for their factory’s failure.

Earlier the FWU had reported that on the night of June 11, 2018, security forces carried out a "barbaric raid" against strikers and arrested close to 50 workers. About 15 steelworkers were also arrested the next day at a rally in front of the Khuzestan Governor general's office, Human Rights Monitor (HRM) reported.

Workers at the manufacturing plant have gone on strike numerous times in recent months to demand overdue wages.

INSIG, based on a steel mill founded in 1963 during Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s reign, was privatized in 2010, in a highly mysterious manner and sold to a notorious Iranian tycoon, Mah Afarid Khosravi, aka Amir Mansour Arya,

described as the richest man in the country with more than $1 billion net-worth.

In 2014, INSIG was taken over by the Islamic Republic’s Judiciary after Khosravi was executed for financial fraud.

The judiciary, for its part, sold INSIG in 2016 to another Iranian tycoon. Since then, INSIG workers have constantly called for the return of their industrial complex to the public sector. INSIG, despite having about 4,000 workers on paper, only about 400 of them are currently on the job as most of the plant has been shut down mainly due to shortages of governmental contracts and raw materials.

In the meantime, more than 1100 km (roughly 690 miles) from Ahvaz, in Shi’ites holiest city in Iran, Mashhad, hundreds of sacked workers of Khorak Dam (Cattle Feed) factory assembled outside its manager offices, demanding their reinstatement. A dispute between the manager and workers forced several to pour petrol over themselves for self-immolation; but were stopped by their fellow workers.

Nevertheless, local reports say, the Special Unit forces, called in by the manager, stormed into the workers rally beating them with sticks, knuckles and using pepper spray. Several workers were also detained and taken away, sources close to labor rights activists reported.

Iran has been engulfed in mass demonstrations since last December when Iranians took to the streets to protest economic hardships, but a general anti-establishment sentiment soon came to the fore. The protests, which began months before the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Deal, spread to 100 cities across the country.

While the workers’ protests continue across Iran, the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has said that “foreign enemies” [ a reference to the USA, Israel, and Saudi Arabia], as well as Iranian dissident groups are behind the labor unrest.