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Sugar Mill Workers Refuse To End Strike, Demand Release Of Comrades

Iran - Haft Tappeh sugar factory workers continue their strike and protests. Photo received by Radio Farda on November 28.
Iran - Haft Tappeh sugar factory workers continue their strike and protests. Photo received by Radio Farda on November 28.

On their 27th consecutive day of strike, the workers of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane complex insisted that they will dismiss any offer for negotiations until their detained colleagues are freed.

Two worker representatives are still in custody and one was said to have been tortured and hospitalized a few days ago.

Earlier, Kiumars Kazemi was introduced as the new director general of the factory. According to the government's official news agency (IRNA), authorities from the city of Shush and its member of Majles (parliament), officials from the oil-rich province, Khuzestan, southwest Iran, as well as workers' representatives were present at the ceremony for introducing the new director general.

"We are going to check the situation of the factory every month for a whole year," the Revolution and Public Prosecutor of Khuzesta, Abbas Hosseini Pouya, said at the ceremony, adding, "We are following up on the workers' demands." He also promised to solve the problem of two Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane plant workers still in detention “within next two-three days.”

The appointment of a new director appears to be an attempt by the authorities to calm the workers and re-start production. The new boss immediately called on workers to return to work and said whoever refuses to work “does not belong in the factory”.

Security forces arrested workers' representative Esmail Bakhshi nearly two weeks ago, along with eighteen others.

Most of the detainees were later released, but Bakhshi, a former president of the factory's union, Ali Nejati, and a young journalist Sepideh Qolian are still behind bars.

In the meantime, Tasnim, a news agency run by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) named Kiumars Kazemi as the representative of the shareholders at Haft Tapeh Suga Cane factory, with full powers.

Without referring to Kazemi as the new director general, Tasnim described him as "responsible for restoring operations at the complex.”

Kazemi had earlier served as the vice director general of the plant for some time.

Despite the new appointment, the strikers have insisted to carry on protests until all of their demands, including the return of the factory to the public sector, receiving overdue wages and release of the detainees are met.

The workers have also decided on Saturday, December 1, to leave the Shush Governor compound and hold their protests inside the factory, in front of management’s offices.

Expanding on the new decision, one of the protesters told the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA), "We were told that governmental and provincial representatives are on their way to negotiate with us, therefore, we decided to change the location of our protest assemblies."

Furthermore, the newly appointed caretaker of the factory has insisted that, following a meeting with the private owner of the complex, Morad Assad Beigi, he accepted to serve as the director general with full power and authority.

Nevertheless, Kazemi asserted that he will not be involved in buying or selling of the company, a reference to the workers’ demand that the privatized factory should be returned to public ownership.