A Week of Strikes at Iran’s Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Mill
Workers at the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Mill entered their sixth day on strike in protest to the expulsion of their colleagues and the return of their laid off colleagues-September 28, 2019
On Saturday, September 28, workers at the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Mill entered their sixth day on strike in protest to the expulsion of their colleagues.
After the announcement of the firing of at least twenty workers on Monday, September 23, all workers of the internal sections of the company including those in the mechanical section of the production line and those in the infrastructures’ section stopped working in solidarity with their fired colleagues and gathered in front of the company manager’s office. Security agents’ threats had no effects on the workers who asked for all those fired to regain their jobs.
With around 6000 personnel, the Haft Tappeh agricultural industry is situated 15 km away from Shush in Khuzestan Province, in southwestern Iran. The facility was built on 24,000 hectares of terrain and is considered one of the biggest in its class in Iran.
“Do not forget that no power in Haft Tappeh can match that of workers and united workers,” announced one the workers on strike in their gathering.
The Haft Tappeh company began work in 1959. In the winter of 2015, in the course of turning big state-owned companies to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and security apparatus, the company was put under the control of cover companies belonging to the IRGC and the security organs. That sparked workers’ protests.
Strikes and protests flared up since two years ago. Six days since the new round of strikes have passed in spite of pressure and oppression on behalf of security forces as well as empty promises made to the workers.
The workers’ main theme of protest is why such facilities belonging to the state have been turned over to relatives of Eshaq Jahangiri, Hassan Rouhani’s First Vice President. Owners do not miss a chance to hinder payment of workers’ wages.
Workers on strike have called for the removal of the company’s managers and the handing of the company to the workers’ council, something which has never materialized and has been, on the contrary, a pretext for oppression and expulsion of workers.
Last month, seven workers at the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Mill were sentenced to an eight-month suspended prison sentence and thirty lashes for exercising their rights to peaceful protest over the non-payment of wages and demanding better working conditions.
In November 2018, Haft Tappeh workers held various protests for over 20 consecutive days related to unpaid wages and other grievances that sprang up after the company was privatized.
The complaints were not addressed and Iranian authorities began to arrest workers, with at least two subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention.
In mid-August 2018, some 500 workers protested over three months’ unpaid wages. Riot police attacked the workers with tear gas and beat them. Five workers were also detained but later released after being charged with “disrupting order”.
Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Workers Continue Their Fourth Day of Strike in #Iran— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) August 7, 2018
On Monday, August 6, the workers of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company entered their fourth day of strike in protest against the non-payment of their outstanding salaries. #IranProtests #FreeIran2018 pic.twitter.com/qjLMiDA4Ps
Now, the right of the Iranian people to strike and protest is enshrined in Articles 8 and 21 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Iran is a party. The Covenant also includes a ban on torture or other inhumane and degrading treatment.
This is not the first time that Iran sentenced protesting workers to prison terms and flogging. In October 2018, 15 workers from the Heavy Equipment Production Company (HEPCO) were convicted on charges including “disrupting public order” for going on strike in protest at unpaid wages. They were sentenced to 12-30 months in prison and 74 lashes each.
At least 100 Haft Tappeh workers have been summoned or detained only for speaking out and demanding their rights.