A Blog Written By Roozbeh Mirebrahimi
Roozbeh Miebrahimi – Roozonline, 2007.08.01
Ten days ahead of the planned international demonstrations in support of Iranian labor activists and two jailed union leaders, reports from across Iran speak of demonstrations and strikes in various cities.
Thousands of workers in Assaluyeh and Haft Tapeh’s sugarcane factory, for example, have staged demonstrations in the past few months, mostly surrounding delayed pays and payments.
In some instances the demonstrations were accompanied by strikes. And while workers in some of the cases succeeded in receiving their back pay, some workers in other areas who had decided to go on a strike had been fired from their jobs.
Among places where workers are dealing with harsh conditions is the Assaluyeh free trade zone. During former President Khatami’s final years in office, the area gained significance for its strategic oil and gas reserves. While to many experts the area is a “heaven” for lucrative investments, it is a “hell” for laborers working in the zone that has sparked much discontent.
In the past few days there have been reports of strikes in GAMA and Pars Hassas companies in the Assaluye free trade zone in south of Iran. According to some reports, 600 workers at the GAMA company and more than 120 at Pars Hassas have staged strikes.
Assaluyeh’s problems are not only back payments. There are various health threats and social dangers that threaten the safety of workers residing in the area. Last year, the high advisor to director of the Assaluyeh free trade zone mentioned several dangers that had led to concerns about workers’ safety.
According to the Iranian Student news agency [ISNA], Abdollah Hajiani told a group of reporters, “In the past, the area’s environment was such that in the area’s largest village, Nakhl-e Taqi, the sale of cigarettes was prohibited. This prohibition was not imposed by the government. It was rather the area’s religious culture that implied the prohibition. Now, every year several workers lose their lives due to heavy drug use. Their bodies are found near factory buildings.”
According to Hajiani, the arrival of new migrant workers has changed the area’s demographic make up, making it much easier for drugs to trade hands. Currently, the area’s most significant security threat is heavy drug use. Hajiani referred also to a number of other social ills: “Groups of homeless women immigrate to the area from neighboring Pakistan and Sistan and Baluchistan. These people take part in distributing drugs and propagating other social and immoral ills.”
In the past few days reports have been published of labor protests across the nation. All of the protest revolve around worker’s rights. Since a few months ago, the government has imposed restrictions on domestic news agencies regarding their coverage of workers’ demands. Iran’s Kar News Agency, which covered a broad range issues related to workers’ rights, was even filtered by the government, sparking widespread protests.