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Sugar Mill Labor Unrest Continues For 20th Day in Southwestern Iran

Workers at Haft-Tappeh Sugar factory continue their strike and protests for the 17th day on Wed. March 21.

Labor unrest continued in Haft-Tappeh in the Shush region, in southwestern Iran on Saturday November 24 for the 20th consecutive day.

Hundreds of the town's sugar mill workers marched in the streets protesting against non-payment of their wages for four months, lack of job security and mismanagement of the factory.

The workers marched between the local governor's office and the main square in Shush, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported.

Government officials on Thursday had said that the workers had received one month's wages and their labor union confirmed that three more detained workers were freed from jail.

One more sugar mill worker and labor leader, Esmail Bakhshi, and a reporter, Sepideh Ghalian are still in custody, ILNA added.

A Labor Ministry official also confirmed that only one of the workers arrested during last week's protests still remains in jail, adding that another person under arrest is a female reporter, "not a worker."

Meanwhile, Farzaneh Zilabi, the workers' defense lawyer, told reporters that the arrested workers have been freed on bail and their case awaits hearing.

During the protests on Saturday, Haft-Tappeh workers called on state officials to be serious in following up on the workers' case and to meet their demands.

The workers told reporters that the protests have so far led to the payment of only one month's wages and that they are still waiting to receive their unpaid wages for another three months.

They also called on officials to make sure that they receive their allowances and those who have retired receive their pensions. They also demanded continuing contracts for the workers employed based on fixed-term agreements.

Referring to the inability of the company’s owners to run the factory, the workers called on the government to annul its privatization and hand over the sugar mill to the government or to a council made up of the their representatives.

The workers say, during the two years since the sugar mill's privatization, the inefficient management by the new owners created many problems for the factory.

Protests in Haft-Tappeh started 20 days ago when news broke out that one of the company's private owners had escaped from the country and another owner was detained, according to what Privatization Organization officials had told the workers.

The sugar mill was privatized in March 2016. Two months later, the MP for Shush warned -then-Economy Minister Ali Tayebnia about the inappropriate process of privatization, which put the sugar mill under the control of two inexperienced, but otherwise well-connected young men with links to Iran's clerical oligarchy.

The MP argued that the way privatization was handled was tantamount to the government abandoning the industrial establishment, warning that privatization of the factory would lead to many problems for its workers.

Haft-Tappeh is located in Shush region, ancient Susa, the cradle of one of the oldest civilizations in the world.