International sanctions and the pandemic have sunk the nation in a profound economic crisis. Even large corporations have not paid salaries in months. The economic gap with corporate executives. The cost of living in Iran is three times the average wage of a worker. Several union leaders arrested.
Tehran (AsiaNews) - Iranian workers are taking to the streets in growing numbers to protest against wage discrimination and corruption in the companies where they are employed.
On the back of pressure from the international community and the US sanctions over the country's nuclear program, demonstrations for labour rights have multiplied in recent years: all aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic. The country has been in recession since 2018; according to the World Bank, in 2020 the GDP had year-on-year decline of 3.7%.
The latest wave of protests took place in Arak (Markazi province). Employees of a large aluminium manufacturer and of the Hepco company - which specializes in the production of machinery - demonstrate that they are late in paying their salaries. They demand that the wage gap with their superiors be reduced and that real health insurance be recognized. Ali, one of the demonstrators, expressed his frustration to AsiaNews: “We have not been paid for three months. We have heard many words from our bosses, which have been followed by a few facts”.
Other protests continue in Khuzestan where the employees of the Haft-Tappeh sugar refinery contest reduced wages and worsening working conditions following the company’s privatization three years ago with subsequent massive lay-offs.
Mahmood, one of the workers involved, says that ten years ago there were good economic conditions in the company. The salary was sufficient to live and some work benefits were recognized. After the move to private individuals, the situation has changed and other employees are now in danger of being sacked.
Even in the petrochemical area of Asaluyeh, conditions for workers are increasingly difficult, despite the fact that it contributes to a large part of the state budget. Local staff have to work in difficult weather conditions, without receiving regular salary.
Mohammad Reza, a local worker, says he is forced to work in the blazing sun at 40 degrees, with the company not paying him for four months. He then complains that "engineers and managers are paid five or six times more than an employee like him".
According to the workers' representative in the Supreme Labour Council, a 100% increase in wages will not be enough to solve the economic problems of many Iranians. Often they don't even have the money to pay rent. The cost of living in Iran is three times the average wage of a worker. While some categories of workers earn 30 million rials per month (589 euros), their monthly expenses reach 80-90 million (1,570-1,766 euros).
The growing spread of workers' protests has become a serious challenge for the Iranian government. It asked workers to stop the protests by making promises that were not kept. In recent months, union leaders have met with members of parliament, but have failed to find a solution: after such meetings, three workers' representatives have been arrested.