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Millions of Construction Workers Deprived of Basic Rights in Iran

Iran suffers from its worst economic crunch, affecting people from all walks of life. But the plight of Iranian workers is beyond imagination. From lacking safety in work to the poor financial situation, they are indeed subjected to “modern slavery” under the ruling theocracy. 

While many workers lose their lives annually across the globe due to the lack of safety, Iran, under the clerical regime, is among the top countries in terms of work accidents. In 2022 alone, 1900 workers perished in Iran due to work accidents. Construction workers form half of this number.   

According to the state-run ILNA News Agency on June 2, 2022, “there are at least two million construction workers in Iran.”  

“Roughly 1.5 million construction workers are deprived of their basic rights, such as insurance or a stable contract,” wrote the state-run Iranian Toseeh [Persian development] newspaper on May 11.  

The Construction Workers Insurance Law, established in 1932, introduced a provision for compensating workers involved in construction activities in the event of different types of injuries, including disabilities and even fatalities. This law mandated the issuance of payment receipts as proof of insurance coverage for workers. 

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According to Article 5 of the regime’s social security insurance regulations for construction workers, a license will be granted upon submission of the insurance payment receipt, which should be deposited into the social security organization’s account. The required payment for each square meter of infrastructure is equivalent to 4% of the minimum monthly wage of workers. Therefore, the regime should automatically increase workers’ insurance payments or provide insurance to many uninsured workers. After nearly two years, the regime’s parliament was supposed to ratify an amendment to alleviate workers’ insurance slightly.  

But nearly four months later, and before the government implemented this law,  the regime’s MPs called for its abolishment, arguing that raising workers’ insurance premiums or extending coverage to disadvantaged Iranian construction workers would lead to an increase in real estate prices, thereby exacerbating the housing crisis!  

However, according to the state-run Sharq Daily on May 30, 2021, increasing workers’ insurance has no impact on property and building prices, not even by half a percent. The construction cost per square meter of housing remains constant nationwide, ranging between 80 and 100 million rials, regardless of the land. Out of this total cost, workers’ wages account for 20 to 30 million rials.  

Surprisingly, despite these figures, the construction conglomerates sell the same housing units for 500-600 million rials, with workers’ insurance having no effect on their profits, even by half a percent. 

“The most absurd claim is that wage increases in Iran lead to an inflationary spiral. Studies conducted within the Ministry of Labor have shown that for every 100% increase in wages, there is a maximum of 3% increase in prices,” wrote the state-run Jahan-e Sanat Daily on April 8, 2023.  

The construction mafia holds such immense power that despite the law being passed just four months ago, it has yet to be implemented. The MPs have already collected signatures to revoke this law and “review” a new plan and expedite voting on its urgency, even though its approval took several years. Shockingly, 8% of the country’s workforce is employed by construction companies, and 50% of work-related accidents in the country are attributed to them. This is how these workers are oppressed. 

The construction industry, particularly mass construction, high-rise buildings, and advanced structures, is predominantly controlled by the Revolutionary Guards and the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei’s financial institutions. Thus, the lives of Iranian workers are further endangered by Khamenei and the IRGC. 

The Iranian people, especially the working class, have long recognized that the regime and its illicit activities are the root cause of the nation’s financial catastrophe. The relentless protests and strikes led by Iranian workers serve as a powerful testament to this reality. The resounding chant of the Iranian populace, “Poverty, corruption, exorbitant prices—we will persist until regime change,” vividly illustrates their resolute stance on finding a solution to their deep-seated issues.