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EDITORIAL: Iran’s Workers: A Powder Keg

Iran most workers work under the daily-paid bases and are under no coverage
Iran most workers work under the daily-paid bases and are under no coverage

Iranian workers have never been under such pressure during four decades of the mullahs’ rule, and they have never experienced such an unbearable situation. Because this year, in addition to all the pain and suffering caused by the mullahs’ regime, they also face another enemy called the coronavirus, and they have to fight empty-handed on both fronts.

Currently, most workers work under the daily-paid bases and are under no coverage.
“If a worker does not work during the day, he will have no salary and no money for dinner,” said the regime’s President Hassan Rouhani, justifying the abolition of quarantine and forcing workers back to work.
Rouhani’s remarks in this regard as the regime’s president, as well as being a disgrace for this corrupt and inhumane regime, portray the Iranian workers’ situation under this regime in Iran. The majority of the Iranian workers have reached a point that if they do not work for a day, they will not even have bread to eat at night.
Apparently, this situation belongs only to daily-paid workers. But the reality is that the vast majority of Iranian workers are currently in the same situation, because, according to government sources, “more than 96 percent of workers’ contracts are temporary and there are around 3 million non-registered workers in workshops who are unidentified. They are daily-paid workers and do not have insurance.”
Therefore, the term “official worker” has been purged and most of the workers are hired on permanent or temporarily contracts and most of them could be fired by the employer at any time, and the worker has no place to complain. The presence of an army of hungry people lining behind the factory’s doors, who are willing to work under any circumstances in order to find something to eat, silences any protestive voice against the inhumane working conditions.
Thus, workers are deprived of the least job security and are sometimes easily fired despite two or three decades of work experience. Government sources put the number of unemployed workers at 3 million before the coronavirus outbreak, which has been fatally exacerbated because of the coronavirus crisis. “The employment situation in Iran has become more fragile than before; from March 15 to the first week of April, 600,000 official workers have been laid off in the same short period of time,” the state-run Sharq newspaper reported on April 14.

Employed workers are not in a better situation. Their situation has deteriorated in recent years, and their purchasing power has declined every year. Mohammad Shariatmadari, the Rouhani government’s minister of labor, announced on April 9 that the Supreme Labor Council had “set the minimum wage at 1,835,426 tomans (about $150), with a 21 percent increase in comparison to the previous year.”
This amount is less than the official 41 percent inflation rate. According to Article 41 of the regime’s Labor Law, the regime is obliged to determine wages, in accordance with the inflation rate announced by the Central Bank, and this year the Central Bank has announced an inflation rate of 41%.
Yet, especially when it comes to vital items such as nutrition, which are the basis of the cost of living for the working class, the inflation rate reaches 100%. But instead of a 41 percent increase in wages compared to the previous year, the regime’s Supreme Labor Council increased the minimum wage by only 21 percent.
Under such circumstances, Iranian workers have been deprived of all the rights they had obtained over the past 100 years through suffering and struggle. They do not have reliable insurance or job security or the right to form organizations and unions. They do not enjoy the minimum safety standards in factories and workshops and do not have the right to protest. Each protest is responded to with imprisonment, torture, or at the very least, layoffs.

In his speech justifying sending workers back to work amid the coronavirus pandemic, Rouhani left workers to choose between death due to the coronavirus or poverty and unemployment. He said: “The coronavirus is a disease, yet unemployment is a great danger. The coronavirus death should not be contained while there will be deaths due to poverty and unemployment.”

Rouhani’s fear is not the death of workers due to hunger, but another uprising such as November 2019, and this is an attempt to reduce the explosive situation of Iranian workers.