A wave of labor strikes has hit Iran on Saturday, August 1 in different sectors and plants, including Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane industrial complex, and more importantly in the oil and gas industry.
Workers went on strike in the south if Iran, at Abadan, Parsian and Qeshm refineries, and in the Lamerd petrochemical complex, and South Pars oil field. All workers assembled, demanding the implementation of job-classification law and their overdue wages and benefits.
Workers at Qeshm oil refinery employed by several contractors say that their employers have failed to pay them regularly.
Nevertheless, the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) cited one of the refinery's directors saying that the workers are after raises and have no problem concerning overdue salaries.
The Abadan oil refinery has also witnessed protests by contract workers in recent months, which gained momentum on Saturday.
Furthermore, workers in phases 22 and 24 of South Pars gas fields went on strike on Saturday with similar demands. Workers in these phases have held several strikes and rallies since 2017.
Meanwhile, Hepco, one of the principal manufacturers of road construction machinery, witnessed another round of workers’ protest to confusion and uncertainty over undefined job descriptions and decline in the operational capacity of production lines.
A jewel in the crown of the industrial sector in Iran before the Islamic Revolution (1979), Hepco is reportedly operating with only 5-10 percent capacity.
Unpaid wages and benefits in Iran in recent years have become a major issue for workers. The ongoing hardship has forced struggling workers to hold protest rallies in different parts of Iran, including the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Industrial Complex, in the oil-rich Khuzestan province.
On Saturday, workers at the plant marked the 48th day of their strike. At the same time, three parliament members visited the city of Shush (ancient Susa), where the complex is located.
In recent years, sugarcane workers have been demanding their overdue wages and requiring the company's return of ownership to the public sector or the workers themselves.
Once a lucrative plant, the massive agro-industrial complex founded in the 1960s in the oil-rich Khuzestan Province, is the oldest sugar mill in Iran. The mill was privatized under questionable circumstances in 2015.
With 24,000 hectares (about 60,000 acres), was transferred to Omid Asadbeigi and Mehrdad Rostami-Chegini in February 2015, in exchange for an advance payment of sixty billion rials (approximately $1.4 million), a clearly inadequate amount for the value of the company’s land and assets. Since then there is no proof of further payment or any significant investment in the complex.
The company's workers have always complained about delays in their salaries over the years. As a rule, the Islamic Republic arrests whoever participates in labor protests. Many protesters, including the Haft Tappeh workers, have been detained and sentenced to long term imprisonment.
The Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers are demanding immediate payment of three-month overdue wages, renewal of their insurance, the return of fired employees, immediate arrest of the company's CEO, Asad Beigi, and sentencing him and the chairman of the company's board of directors, Mehrdad Rostami Chegini to life imprisonment.
The owners are also involved in a $1.5 billion FOREX corruption case.
The Haft Tappeh example shows that although U.S. sanctions have hurt Iran's economy and the government's ability to bail out troubled companies, corruption and mismanagement are at the core of many labor protests.
In one of the sessions of the trial, the prosecutor alleged that Omid Assadbeigi, the CEO of the company and one of its owners, has deliberately not paid the workers’ wages as a tool to put pressure on the court to acquit him, presumably being aware of the complications that workers' protests and strikes will create for the government.
According to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), workers are also worried about the spread of coronavirus among them. "Forty of our colleagues are now in isolation due to COVID-19," one of the workers was quoted by ILNA as saying.
Meanwhile, a lawmaker, Alireza Khezrian, told the state-run radio and television that he and two other legislators had traveled to Shush to investigate the problems of the Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers and submit a report to parliament.