Workers at one of Iran’s most restive industrial units, the Haft Tapeh sugarcane complex resumed their strike for the eighth consecutive day on Monday, June 22.
They are demanding three-month overdue wages and protesting the non-renewal of their social welfare and medical insurance, as well as lack of job security.
According to the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Workers' Union, the protesting workers have held two rallies. One of the assemblies took place in front of the company’s administration office and the other outside the governor's building in the city of Shush in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, southwest Iran.
Workers at the vast complex also demand to return the mill to the public sector.
In 2015, the company was handed over to two businessmen with dubious records. The change has led to harsh criticism from thousands of sugarcane workers in Haft Tappeh, as well as dozens of economists, and even some members of parliament.
Handing over the ownership of the complex to the private sector has brought a plethora of problems for the once-lucrative complex, they argue. The workers have been sporadically protesting since 2018 and often they were met with harsh reactions by security forces and local officials. Many were arrested and sentenced to prison.
The Islamic Republic Judiciary has recently charged the principal owner of the mill, Omid Assadbeigi, with large-scale foreign currency violations. Eight court hearings related to his case have been held so far.
Mr. Assadbeigi is currently free on bail. The sugarcane workers insist that he was released on the condition of paying the overdue wages, but he has not fulfilled the promise so far.
The Haft Tappeh complex is the only factory of its kind in Iran. It was built more than half a century ago during the reign of the last shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The agro-industrial complex was lucrative until the Islamic Republic decided to sell it to the private sector in a murky transaction in 2015.
The complex, built on 2 hectares, was sold to the private buyers for a down payment of roughly $2 million. It is not clear if any other payments have ever been made.