The fifth day of Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemical industries’ workers strikes was accompanied by expansion to other sectors of the country’s economy. Workers at the Mashhad, Tabriz, South Pars Combined Cycle and Rudshu power plants in Tehran joined the strikers today. Workers are asking for improvement in working conditions, regular pay and increase in wages, eliminate discrimination between formal and contract workers, and provide job security. After 12 hours of arduous work, they are forced to stay in dungeons that do not have any basic facilities to rest and regain strength to work next shift and the next day.
In the scorching heat of the south, which is often above 50 degrees Celsius (122F) these days, workers are forced to travel with services that have no cooling devices. The work schedule of these workers is that they are engaged in heavy work for 20 consecutive days a month in fields such as construction, welding, electrical and industrial plumbing, and so on. They are seasonal workers and project workers working for contractors in industries that are now frozen in the strike. There are dormitories near the workplace that are considered workers’ rest during these 20 working days. They have 10 days off after 20 days of continuous work. Workers now plan to strike for 20 days in all shifts.
The first seeds of these strikes, which are spreading every day, began when a contract worker named Ibrahim Arabzadeh died on July 28,2020, due to the heat. After this incident, the workers wrote a list of their demands and handed it over to the contracting companies, and since there was no response from the contractors, the workers resigned on Saturday, August 1. On the same day, about 2,000 workers left the gas fields and returned to their homes, and many protested.
Yesterday, with the refinery workers of Isfahan joining the strikers from the provinces of Khuzestan, Hormozgan, Bushehr and Fars, the strikes entered a new phase: solidarity.
Iranian workers have proved time and again that no amount of repression will silence them
14 independent organizations in Iran issued a statement in support of the labor strikes. You can read the text of this statement here.
At the same time, IndustriALL Global Union, one of the world’s largest labor unions, with 50 million members in 140 countries and 197 independent unions, has declared its solidarity with Iran’s largest labor strikes in four decades.
The official website of the IndustriALL Global Union, in a report on its website about the current labor strikes in Iran, described the strikes as “a huge wave of strikes that have swept through Iran’s energy sector.”
In a section of the Industrial Union article, Kamal Oezkan, Deputy Secretary-General of the Global Union, praised the Iranian workers’ resistance to the regime’s repression and violence, saying:
“Iranian workers have proved time and again that no amount of repression will silence them. They will stand up for their rights and continue to protest until their voice is heard. The workers in the gas fields are taking coordinated, strategic industrial action in defense of their rights. If they hold firm, they can win a substantial change. Iran will suffer industrial conflict until independent unions are recognized.”
Today, the Iranian Mechanical Metalworkers’ Union wrote about the fifth day of the strikes:
“Phases 22 and 24 are still on strike. Phase 14 was emptied of welders and piping workers yesterday. Workers and technicians at the South Pars Combined Cycle Power Plant have also stood their ground.”
This is the first time in the history of Iran’s labor strikes that contract workers in the country’s oil, gas and petrochemical industries have managed to organize strikes in such a scale. Contract workers, although they make up about 70 percent of the total workforce in the sector, have so far been unable to organize such a large-scale protest movement due to dispersal in companies and job search through intermediaries. They are now in the most difficult situation without having a union and an organizing institution. Since yesterday, the first signs of repression and violence by the regime have appeared in response to the workers’ protests.
A video of the Isfahan refinery was shared on social media, in which security forces tried to prevent workers from leaving the refinery. An attempt that was in vain. There have also been sporadic reports of the temporary detention of several workers on social media, under the pretext of recording strikes.
In the absence of an independent union and supporting body, it is the national duty of all of us to support our fellow countrymen in these protests. Be the media. Be a voice. Be Iranian; In these days when the anti-Iranian regime ruling our country suppresses every dissenting voice, executes every protester and suppresses every worker.
Translation of this post by Sahar.