Monday, May 5, 2008

Irans Mayday.

By Chloe Godin

This May Day, imagine working for a month without receiving due pay. Now imagine working for five to eight months without pay. Imagine working with no pay in a factory where the working conditions are sub-standard, the hours long and the work hard.

Imagine that at any moment now you might lose your job without severance pay, because you only have a temporary contract. Imagine going on strike to protest against these conditions and being met with police clubs. Imagine being arrested during the strike and charged with political conspiracy. Imagine risking a year in prison or worse, torture, just because you went on strike.

If you lived in Iran, and worked in Kian Tire factory, this would be your reality. Following a three-day strike in Kian Tire factory, which ended in a police crackdown on April 14, the whereabouts of 1,000 arrested workers still remains unknown.

The deteriorating economic and social conditions, harsh working circumstances, overall diminishing labor rights and labor legislation protection has forced a great majority of the 22 million member workforce to turn to trade unions for help.

Minimum wage had dwindled to $198 a month in March 2007, below the official poverty line of $300 a month. According to the 2006 International Confederation of Free Trade Unions Survey, nearly 2 million workers have not been paid; some have had withheld payment for nearly two years. An increase in the use of temporary contracts as a barrier to organizing and to diminish workers' rights further contributes to the dire working conditions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2005 promises to improve living standards are now ringing hollow.

The Islamic councils, established by the government as a politically safe way to represent the workers, have not responded to their needs. As a result, the popularity of independent unions, seen as the sole way to improve working condition, has grown steadily. The Iranian government, alarmed by these developments, has not been willing to recognize the existence of these organizations, despite a 2003 amendment to the Labor Code that stipulates the right to form trade unions.

It is thus not surprising that a wave of strikes has washed over the country. Ranging from textile workers from the country's largest state-owned factory in Rasht, to dam workers in the western province of Elam, down to bus drivers and pharmaceutical factory employees in Tehran, employees from all across the country and from various industries are protesting.

Governmental responses to these waves of strikes have been radical: detainment, harassment, and both physical and mental persecution.

International pressure on the nuclear program and growing domestic criticism regarding economic mismanagement has led Ahmadinejad and his government to clamp down on any form of dissent, opposition or protest. Accused of "propaganda against the Islamic Republic," of "acting against national security" and "organizing illegal gatherings," hundreds of workers have thus been detained for unspecified periods of times.

Mansour Ossanlou, president of the Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, and Mahmoud Salehi, a labor rights activist with links to the Trade Association of Saqez Bakery Workers, have become household names in Iran. The two were repeatedly arrested and placed in prison for months, even years at a time.

Following a year of intense international lobbying by the international trade union and human rights' organizations Salehi, imprisoned as a result of his participation in a 2004 May Day rally, was finally released on March 6 after having to pay a bail of 400 million rials ($43,659) – an astronomical amount in Iranian terms.

A Global Day of Action was organized on March 6 to express solidarity and call for the Iranian government to respect fundamental workers rights. As a member of the International Labor Organization, Iran must abide by ILO Convention 87 regarding the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and Convention 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining.

Whether or not this Global Day of Action had a direct positive impact on Salehi's release may never be known. However, it is clear that international groups are no longer willing to sit back and watch while labor rights, as a basic human right, are being violated in Iran. Over the past few months, Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth office, the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International have published their annual human rights reports. All of them rank Iran as one of the top human rights offenders.

Ahmadinejad may well have heard the rumblings of international disapproval, but as yet has felt no serious repercussions. The ILO must threaten Iran with the application of its supervisory machinery more effectively to ensure compliance of the ratified conventions.

If Iran continues to blatantly show signs of non-compliance, the ILO can put into practice its 'name and shame' strategy which would further damage Iran's international stance.

As promising as the recent U.K., U.S. and NGO reports have been, these need to place greater emphasis on the treatment of workers. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently announced that international negotiators are currently preparing a new package of incentives for Iran. Hopefully this package will focus not only on Iran's nuclear program, but also current human rights, and thus labor rights.

Otherwise, if Iran can still reap rewards, regardless of its treatment of workers and citizens, why should it bother to change its behavior?

Chloe Godin

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


1 comment:

mariana said...

Chloe: Thank you so much for the plethora of interesting information you've provided - all in one place - in this posting; however, I think your conclusions are nutz.

">...Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently announced that international negotiators are currently preparing a new package of incentives for Iran. Hopefully this package will focus not only on Iran's nuclear program, but also current human rights, and thus labor rights."


How about "incentivizing" with the carriers and Aegis-equipped destroyers puddling around in the Gulf? Certainly the training camps, manufacturing, transport and equipping facilities close to Iran's border with Iraq, are well and easily within range.

I fail to see why, at this stage in their aggressive, global war against Western Civilization to force "Islamization" we should have been fighting [certainly since 1975 Lebanon], that we are STILL shoveling out "incentives" to cruel, lunatic, atavistic savages who are intent on turning back the clock to the 7th Century.

Theirs is a Culture of Death, relentlessly brainwashing their children and using them indifferently to murder and become "suicide"/murderers [Shahids] against hapless Westerners.

THEIR CULTURE [like post-War Germany's] MUST BE CHANGED, not tolerated. Most of the tenants of their culture require dismantlement - not "incentives".

Don't you [who at least see, feel and understand this "issue"] think it's time to use cold, hard language describing the realities of our plight and their serious intent?

Don't you believe it's time to stop the "child psychology", since it obviously, has not worked? No matter how "Civilized" and "Peace-loving" our governments claimed Arafat and PLO were; regardless of the cakes, keys and White House Tours we've delivered to "Moderate Muslims" in Iran and the rest of totalitarian Muslim Middle East; their aggressive behaviours [overt and covert] have only increased, and become more effective [lethal].

The harder we try to accommodate, please or "get along" with Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabian Wahhabis, "Palestinian" Arabs, et al, the more intractable, demanding, numerous, well-equipped and vicious they've become.

War is War, and these "jive-time-half-steps", which seem to be the only modalities our governments and "intellectuals" appear willing to entertain, have failed miserably. Moreover, the spreading and strengthening of enemy forces across the globe have continued apace, and unabated.

I think for starters, it is long past time that our military folk were tasked with: destroying sufficient numbers of these forces [and the "civilian" supporters who house, hide and support them] to cause sufficient pain to make an impression on the Jihadis: leaders and lumpen alike. mariana

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