Hundreds of workers at Haft Tapeh sugar cane plantation and mill complex in city of Shush, southwestern Iran, have launched a new round of strikes while holding protest rallies to demand their overdue benefits and wages.
The protesters who have been on strike since December 2, for the second consecutive day assembled in front of Haft Tapeh office on Sunday, December 10.
Haft Tapeh workers have always had to fight for their wages, pensions and rights since the complex was privatized.
In an open letter dated October 8, 2017, thousands of Haft Tapeh workers had complained that since the March 2016 sale of the sugarcane company to the private sector they had “more than one year of suffering and anguish…we have been able to receive our wages only through protests and gatherings”.
Furthermore, the workers have lamented for being summoned to the courts and arrested.
Insisting that the only way to save the complex is returning its ownership to the public sector, the workers have also maintained, “Since the transfer of ownership to the present owners, the company’s debts have increased, with the employer only thinking of reducing the permanent workforce”.
Accusing the government of supporting the rich, the workers have complained that they have become poorer while the managers of the complex have become richer.
The ruling system’s authorities used to boast that they were defenders of the oppressed, the workers have regretfully noted, immediately adding “But now that they themselves have become rich, they [have turned into] the defenders of the rich”.
Meanwhile, the International Union for Food (IUF) in a statement on December 4, reflected Haft Tape workers grave situation, saying “Haft Tapeh workers have always had to fight for their wages and pensions and their rights. In 2008, workers formed an independent union - affiliated to the IUF - following a 42-day strike to demand long-standing wage arrears. In June this year, the workers again held work stoppages and demonstrations to demand payment of wage arrears of up to four months”.
Referring to an international campaign for defending the rights of Haft Tapeh sugar cane complex, IUF has also asserted, “In response to our international campaign, the wage arrears were partially settled; temporary workers are still owed two months' wages for 2016. But workers have not been paid since July 11”.
The Geneva based IUF also believes that privatization of Haft Tapeh industrial complex has been detrimental to the workers’ rights, “Conditions at Haft Tapeh have worsened since the company was privatized in a murky 2015 privatization deal. Pension benefits have been suspended due to the company's failure to pay into the state social security scheme”.
According to IUF’s statement, “The Haft Tapeh workers are demanding full payment of wage and benefit arrears; recognition of the union as the workers' legal representative; reinstatement of all unjustly terminated workers; and the company's return to government ownership”.