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Iranian Truckers’ Strike Gains International Support

As the truckers’ strike in Iran entered its 11th day on June 1, footage and images circulated on social media showed that cab drivers have also joined the strike in several cities across Iran.

The Teamsters, one of the largest labor unions in the United States and the world, has also expressed solidarity with Iranian truckers.

In a letter sent to Abolfazl Mehrabadi, deputy director of the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C., Teamster General President James Hoffa noted, “Iranian truck drivers in 25 provinces and 160 cities have been on strike over low pay, rising operating costs, increased tolls and other regulatory fees. #Teamsters stand in #solidarity with our Iranian brother & sisters!”

Hoffa also announced that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents 1.4 million transportation and supply chain workers in both the United States and Canada, “stands in solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters.”

“We urge the government of Iran to listen to the grievances of the striking Iranian truck drivers, address their just demands and recognize their internationally recognized rights to assembly, speech, freedom of association and collective bargaining,” Hoffa wrote.

Cab drivers in several cities across Iran have also joined voices with truckers protesting low wages, high costs of spare parts, and a significant increase in social welfare premiums.

The truckers are demanding a 35 to 50 percent increase for haulage charges, while the government has already accepted an increase of up to 20 percent.

Truck drivers are also unhappy with being forced to install tracker devices on their vehicles and pay for related expenses, while “only security forces, intelligence agents, and the National Oil Company benefit from them.”

Footage of striking truckers and taxi drivers resisting security forces, calling for unity, have been widely circulated on social media.

The city of Isfahan, in particular, has been the scene of clashes between local strikers and strikebreakers reportedly sent from other towns to help authorities end the protests.

“Haulage fees have already been increased up to 20 percent and the problem of truckers’ subsidies addressed, but meeting their other demands takes time,” Roads and Urban Development Ministry Deputy Abdol-Hashem Hassan Nia said on May 31.

However, truckers have rejected the officials’ promises as lip service and say they will continue the strike until all of their demands are met.

In an interview with Radio Farda’s Baktash Khamsehpour, a former member of the board of directors of the Union of Workers of Tehran and the Suburban Bus Company (UWTSBC) and labor rights activist Mansour Osanloo insist that truckers’ and cab drivers’ demands are reasonable and legitimate.

According to Osanloo, “Truckers’ demands, including higher wages, have been accumulated over the past few years, reaching an unbearable point, while their governmental subsidies have also been cut. Furthermore, roads in Iran are not safe, and many road patrols demand high bribes to let trucks pass. In the meantime, most of the haulage and transport companies that are owned and managed directly by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) or people supported by it charge truck owners with high commissions.”

Osanloo, who fled Iran after years of imprisonment and being stabbed in the tongue, noted that the truckers’ strike has struck a chord around the world.

There are three types of truckers in Iran: those who fully own their vehicles and others who pay for their trucks to government-controlled companies in installments for years. A minority works for truck owners.

Most of the time, truck drivers find themselves working for the government, the biggest importer and distributor of strategic commodities, particularly fuel and foodstuff, based on a daily wage, or fee per kilometer.

According to the Roads and Urban Development Ministry, there are currently near 370,000 trucks running in Iran, of which 120,000 are more than 35 years old.