It has been more than a week since the labor strikes in Iran. In the oil, petrochemical, gas and power plants industries, strikes which began from the south of the country are growing and becoming more widespread by the day. Today, Tuesday June 29, 2021, workers of more than 70 companies left their jobs and joined the “Nationwide Evacuation 2010 1400 (2021) Campaign“. To date, many labor and trade unions inside and outside the country have supported the strong ongoing strikes by Iranian oil workers: IndustriALL Global Union, the Landsorganisationen i Sverige (LO), the General Union of Iraqi Oil and Gas Workers, the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggle, England’s National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company Workers’ Union, the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Cultivation and Industry Workers Union, the Iranian Pensioners Council,… Families of the November 2019 victims also issued a statement: “Now workers continue ‘Aban’s voice’. This is the voice of all of us, the same ones who shouted for our rights in the streets together in November 2019. Although in November they responded to our call for justice with bullets, the voice of truth cannot be silenced. We now hear these cries in the workers’ strike. We, the Aban families, support the nationwide strikes.” Prince Reza Pahlavi also called the “unity and solidarity” of the workers as a “source of pride” and declared his support for this “civil disobedience”:
What does the Iranian worker want? What is he protesting against? What makes him go on strike despite the risk of job loss and repression? The answer is simple: poverty. September last year, Hamid Reza Gholitabar, inspector of the Supreme Assembly of Workers’ Representatives, described the tragedy in a few words: “The poverty line of a family of four has reached 10 million Tomans and more than half of the Iranian people live in absolute poverty. Workers cannot even afford to buy a cell phone in installments for their children’s education. Considering the estimate of our country’s poverty line for a family of four and the optimistic monthly salary of 3 million Tomans, it can be easily proven that workers (more than half of our country’s population) live in absolute poverty.” And today, June 29, 2021, a year after those words, Nasser Chamani, the president of the Supreme Chamber of Trade Unions, describes the reality like this: “When a poverty line is set in a society, but the workers have a salary of 2,655,000 Toman and even with overtime and New Year bonuses, it won’t pass 3,300,000 Toman. That means, workers’ salaries are about 7 million Tomans below the poverty line. Given that there is no job security in the working-class community, more than 70% of the laborers receive minimum wage and many of them do not receive salaries and benefits.” A petrochemical worker who is both a contractor and a day laborer describes his struggles to survive in a much more tangible way: “Why should I, a worker with more than 8 years of experience, still be a contractor and a day laborer, while at the same oil industry, acquaintances and relatives of the ‘specials’ come and take seats and become officials without any background.” 80% of the burden of the oil industry is on the contract workers, workers who have no job security, cannot grow and advance in their jobs, work in the worst weather conditions, with the lowest salary, which is 7 million Tomans below the poverty line. All workers, both formal and contractors, live below the poverty line. This means the majority of society.
As for the small minority of the society: Yesterday, Forbes magazine in a report on the statistics of Iranian millionaires wrote: “The rapid growth of the population of Iranian millionaires, according to Capgemini, has made Iran the 14th richest country in the world and the richest country in the Middle East. Iran is now even richer than its biggest rival, Saudi Arabia, which is ranked 17th with 210,000 millionaires.” Capgemini estimates Iran is home to an estimated 250,000 millionaires, right amid strictest sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, right opposite of millions of citizens, more than 60 percent of the population living in absolute poverty. Corruption and the unjust distribution of wealth have never been so obvious. How is such a contradiction possible? The answer has never been so simple: injustice. The gap that is widening in the society today between the rich and the poor is not the product of the inefficiency of an institution or a government. This injustice is the injustice of a structure, a system, which for four decades has created poverty and misery, in which man, no matter how hard he works, cannot make ends meet. In this structural injustice, the worker has neither job security, nor an organization to defend his rights against the employer, nor the possibility of advancement and growth in his job; the worker in this system of misery works on daily wage, he’s paid by the amount of his work, is seasonal, he lives below the poverty line until he has no life left for another day. He is a pauper.
Translation of this post by Sahar.