Reporting by PMOI/MEK
Iran, April 29, 2020—On the eve of International Workers’ Day, it is important to take a glimpse at the situation and position of workers in Iran, who constitute the majority of the country’s population.
Iranian workers are celebrating International Workers’ Day while being under unprecedented pressure. Neither during the rule of the Shah nor the mullahs has the situation been so stressful for workers. Today, in addition to economic hardships, Iran’s labor community is also facing the danger of the coronavirus.
To justify the cancellation of quarantines and forcing workers back to work, Iranian regime president Hassan Rouhani said: “A worker, if he does not work during the day and if he has no money and revenue, how can he provide food for the evening? What can we do for him?” (Excerpt from Rouhani’s remarks during his cabinet meeting on April 8)
Rouhani’s remarks portray the difficult situation of Iranian workers. Most workers have reached a point that if they don’t work, they have nothing to eat in the evening.
“More than 96 percent of workers’ registered contracts are temporary and about 3 million unofficial workers in factories work on a daily pay basis without insurance and certificate,” wrote the daily Iran, run by Rouhani’s government, on April 28.
This way, formal worker employment in Iran is almost gone, and most Iranian workers are on temporary contracts, and they often have to sign an agreement that gives their employers the exclusive right to fire them at their leisure. The regime thus keeps the workers under extreme pressure to prevent them from protesting or going on strike.
Therefore, workers are deprived of minimum job security and are sometimes fired easily after two or three decades of work experience. They are the main victims of the destruction process that has been accelerated by the coronavirus crisis. Before the coronavirus outbreak, official sources had placed the number of unemployed workers at around 3 million. And their numbers have increased considerably during the pandemic.
The daily Sharq wrote on April 14: “The employment situation in Iran has also become more fragile than before. In a short period of time from mid-March to mid-April, 600,000 official workers have lost their jobs.”
Those workers who still have a job are no better off. Their situation has not improved in recent years, and their purchasing power has declined every year. After a one-and-half month delay, Labor Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari announced on April 10: “The Supreme Labor Council set the minimum wage of workers at 8,354,560 rials, a 21-percent increase compared to the previous year.” Based on article 41 of Labor Law, the regime is obligated to determine in accordance with the inflation rate announced by the Central Bank which was announced 41 percent this year. Let’s keep in mind that especially in the case of vital items such as food, which are the basis of the cost of living for the working people, the inflation rate has reached 100 percent. The Supreme Labor Council has increased the wages by a mere 21 percent. However, the announced salary is one-fifth of the poverty line. According to Rasoul Khazar, a member of the regime’s Majlis (parliament) Social Committee, the poverty line for a family in urban areas is close to 5 million Tomans and in Tehran is close to 10 million Tomans.
As a result, the Iranian workers have become more and more deprived and poorer year by year. Thus, if at the beginning of 2018, according to the decision of the Ministry of Labor, the monthly salary was $232, last year this amount plunged to $130.
These conditions have effectively reduced the status of Iranian workers to that of ancient slaves, being deprived of all the rights that have been gained during the last hundred years through the suffering and struggle of Iranian workers. They have no right to organize movements; no job security or even minimum safety standards in factories and workshops; no right to protest; and the regime’s response to every protest and strike is imprisonment and torture, or at least dismissal from work.
“The novel coronavirus is a disease, but unemployment is a greater danger. Mortality from corona should not be curbed at the cost of death from poverty and unemployment,” said Rouhani during his cabinet meeting on April 20.
Thus, the regime’s President is forcing Iranian workers to choose between dying of COVID-19 or poverty and unemployment. However, Khamenei and Rouhani have miscalculated the potential of the Iranian workers who will not tolerate this situation. Many regime officials warn about a “massive, severe and violent protest movement” with the participation of the poor (Jahan-e Sanat daily– April 23, 2020), adding that the “current situation is tantamount to a social bomb that can explode at any moment and lead to social unrest.” (Arman daily—April 13, 2020)