International Labor Day: A look at the lives of Iranian workers

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, May 1, 2021—International Labor Day is an occasion to think about and appreciate the hard-working people who are key to every country’s economy. In Iran, workers are marking their annual celebration while struggling to achieve their most basic rights.

On April 28, regime president Hassan Rouhani deceitfully said, “Job security is the main concern of Iranian workers.” It is worth noting that while Rouhani feigns concern for the plight of workers, during his presidency, the work and living conditions of workers have declined to an all-time low.

A month before major anti-regime protests which started on December 6, 2017, the Iranian workers rallied in front of the regime’s Majlis (parliament) to protest the so-called job reform bill.

“The bill has targeted workers’ annual wage increase,” the workers stated on November 16, 2017.

In the last eight years, not only did Rouhani’s government refrain from investing in job-creating activities for one-and-half million newcomers to the labor market, but his government’s policies also resulted in the destruction of most production units.

On April 27, the daily Javan reported, “We have about 2,400 manufacturing firms acquired by the banks that are turned into bird nests.”

Previously, the daily Mashreq wrote on April 13, “from 43,650 industrial units registered in towns and industrial areas, about 9,800 are inactive.”

Violation of workers’ rights goes back to the beginning years of the mullahs’ rule, when the regime’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini eliminated the labor law. After Khomeini’s death in 1989, the regime adopted a minimalist labor law in 1990 under the pressure of workers’ protests in 1990. But even this was constantly under mullahs’ encroachment. On May 1, 2019, the state-run daily Asr Iran website wrote, “More than 90 percent of workers are on temporary contracts.”

Ninety percent of Iranian workers are deprived of their basic rights, and their salary is less than one fifth of workers in neighboring countries. The daily Arman wrote on September 27, 2020, “While in Iran the workers earn $70 [per month], workers in Azerbaijan earn $422, Iraq $435, Jordan $578, Kuwait, and Qatar earn above $1000.”

However, in many workshops, this minimum wage is only on paper. “We live in a country with 10 million unofficial workers who receive less than the minimum wage and earn 7 or 8 million rials (approx. $30) a month,” reported the state-run ISNA news agency on January 3.

On May 22, 2005, based on the Article 44 of the Constitution, regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei ordered to leave large industries such as oil, gas, and large mines, foreign trade activity and foreign exchange policies, import of electricity for domestic use, all postal and telecommunication affairs, railway, air transport, and shipping to the private sector.

As a result, until 2019, more than 900 government projects, companies, and enterprises worth 7,200 trillion rials were forfeited to the private sector. This includes enterprises like Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Mill and Tabriz Machinery Manufacturing. But the recipients of these contracts were companies tied to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and other regime-owned institutions.

This way, Khamenei created large monopolies against the people, especially the workers. Khamenei and the IRGC earn their wealth from the country’s budget.

The daily Keyhan wrote on June 1, 2019, “The fate of about 70 percent of the budget is always overshadowed by the public budget and the details are not clear.”

This is because a large part of the public budget is allocated to “state-owned companies, and government-affiliated and for-profit institutions.”

This is the reason why according to daily Mostaghel on June 1, 2020, “Khamenei’s wealth is estimated above one trillion dollars.”

In the current circumstances, while the poverty line is 120 million rials (approx. $500), the official minimum wage for workers is 26 million rials (approx. $110). The workers are not even able to provide vital and basic products such as bread and eggs for their families.

What the Iranian workers need is to live with honor and dignity in a country that has some of the richest natural resources in the world. The Iranian workers need job security, purchasing power, recognition of trade unions, timely paid wages, right to insurance and pensions, health insurance, and free Covid-19 vaccines.

In recent years, Iranian workers and other classes of the society have constantly expressed their outrage toward regime leaders and their institutionalized corruption.

In their protests, workers and other communities are chanting, “We will not vote, we’ve heard so many lies,” voicing their frustration with the entire regime and their belief that a change in the political lineup will bring no change to the economic conditions and the people’s lives. The past decades have proved that no matter who is occupying the seat of presidency, corruption, poverty, and repression will remain a staple of the lives of the Iranian people while the mullahs are in power.

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