Numerous oil petrochemical sites in different cities of Iran witnessed workers launching new strikes on Monday, April 25, protesting their low paychecks and demanding better working conditions. These latest measures resulted in sites, such as the Bushehr petrochemical complex, coming to a complete halt. The protesting workers are blaming their officials and contractors for refusing to deliver on previous promises. In recent days, similar protests have been reported from other cities, including Asaluyeh, southwest Iran.
Many workers are complaining of lacking job security and any protest over their degrading working conditions leads to contractors expelling them from their only source of income. This includes even simple requests for safety procedures being provided for in their dangerous working environments.
Food rations are very little, and the quality is poor, furloughs are short, and their dormitories lack adequate ventilation despite the scorching 40- to 50-degrees Celsius summer heat. And to add insult to injury, these workers receive very little pay despite their excruciating work in such an environment.
Contractors are refusing to even abide by the pay raises approved by the regime’s Supreme Labor Council, leaving some to believe these contractors are associated with regime officials or at least regime insiders. What makes these circumstances all the more startling is the undeniable fact that the petrochemical industry is of strategic value for Iran and the ruling regime.
This latest round of protests and strikes were triggered by a statement issued by the Organization Council of Contract Oil Workers Protests, describing the contractors as “plunderers” and calling on the workers to unite.
These new protests are encouraged by the successful “20-10” strikes in 2021, during which tens of thousands of project and oil industry workers went on strike that continued for three months. Their campaign led to paycheck increases for a percentage of these workers. Despite their successful push, project workers, especially those in free trade zones, remained deprived of paycheck increases approved by the regime’s own Supreme Labor Council.
The demands raised by workers on strike during the “20-10” campaign was also those of other industries, leading to their strikes encouraging other workers in different branches of Iran’s society also launch their own strikes.
However, as the strikes came to an end, the contractors canceled their agreements with the workers, leaving the latter in limbo regarding their requests and poor working conditions. In the new round of protests and strikes, the workers are demanding free medical care, education, and the right to own a home.
One of the more important demands raised by the protesting workers is an end to the contractors’ ongoing practice of security measures against the workers’ protest movements, including threatening to expel workers for demanding their rights. This was specifically raised following the regime’s violent measures in response to the workers’ “20-10” campaign. Last year’s strikes were reaching the point of suffocating Iran’s petrochemical industry until a portion of the workers’ rights were met.
The regime’s strategic dependence on the country’s petrochemical industry resulted in the strikes evolving into a security risk for Tehran. The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) has received a 141 percent budget increase in the new fiscal year (March 2021 to 2022) in comparison to the same period during the previous year. Meanwhile, the salaries of petrochemical workers, teachers, and other hard-working segments of society have not been adjusted according to the skyrocketing inflation rate in the country.
In response to the workers’ strikes and protests, the regime’s security apparatus resorted to different methods to prevent the workers from uniting and launching new strikes. This included expelling protesting workers, driving rifts and divides between different labor institutions, and extremely harsh requirements raised during the hiring process.
The new round of strikes by Iran’s petrochemical industry workers indicates the regime’s crackdown measures during the past year have been fruitless. As we speak Iran’s petrochemical industry workers are apparently determined to stand up for their rights and regime officials in Tehran know their success can encourage people from all walks of life to launch their own similar movements.