From the TUC

Act now to prevent the jailing of Iranian sugar workers

24 Sep 2009, By

Two Iranian trade unionists from the sugar industry are still facing jail, although three of their colleagues have had their sentences overturned on appeal after an international solidarity campaign. The IUF – the global union for food workers – is asking people to protest to the Iranian authorities on behalf of Ali Nejati and Reza Rekhshan. Please show your solidarity and help the Iranian sugar workers build an independent union. Because building stronger unions anywhere builds stronger unions everywhere!Union president Ali Nejati and communications officer Reza Rekhshan still face prison sentences while their appeal process drags on – and their imprisonment would be a severe blow to the sugar workers’ struggle for an independent union. The charges against Rekhshan include providing information to foreign trade unionists on the horrendous working conditions at Haft Tapeh.

Ali Nejati has been denied work at Haft Tapeh since his April release from over a month’s solitary confinement in an Intelligence detention center. Nejati has been generally blacklisted from all work in the city of Shush and the situation for him and his family is becoming increasingly desperate.

Thousands of trade union rights supporters around the world have protested the repression against the Haft Tapeh union and its leaders. Ali Nejati was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International following the Haft Tapeh court convictions. International protests presumably played a role in influencing the decision of the appeals court to dismiss the ludicrous charges including “undermining national security.”

Pressure is now urgently needed on the Iranian authorities to overturn the convictions of Ali Nejati and Reza Rekhshan – send a message to the Iranian state and judicial authorities, calling on them to immediately and unconditionally annul the sentences against the Haft Tapeh unionists and immediately reinstate Ali Nejati at his job. Some intended recipients’ messages may be rejected due to server overload – others will get through, however. 

Meanwhile union campaigns continue at Haft Tapeh – since 9 September over 500 workers have been on strike demanding the restoration of the monthly overtime which management has cut from 120 to 40 hours. So low is the base wage that workers have to put in up to 120 additional hours per month. Cutters harvesting cane by hand in blistering heat work 6 months out of the year alternating with 6 months unemployment without compensation.