Oil workers’ strike is further proof of an independent union movement in Iran
On top of bus workers in Tehran, sugar refinery workers at Haft Tapeh, teachers and journalists, Iranian oil workers have recently taken strike action, showing that despite the repression independent unions suffer in Iran, they keep on fighting back. And they tell a different story from the one you read in the papers about ‘mad mullahs’ and ‘nuclear theocrats’: Iran is a deeply divided country, and it’s not run in the interests of ordinary workers!
From 25 September to 9 October, 6,500 workers at the government-owned Mahshahr Bandar Imam Petrochemical complex, in south-west Iran, took strike action, demanding an end to management use of subcontracting firms at the plant. Workers’ rights are continuously undermined by intermediary companies, in a familiar pattern seen around the world, and up to 70% of Iranian workers are on temporary contracts.
Workers at the Tabriz petrochemical company at the plant conducted an 11-day strike in March this year on the same demands. That strike was suspended after an empty government promise to respond to workers’ demands within three months, and further promises have been made this time.
On the seventh day of the strike, three oil workers were summoned to the security office and arrested. These were Mansour Abbasi, a worker with the Khawrazmi subcontracting company and a workers’ representative; Mohammad Bagher Bagheri, worker at Fars Industries contracting company and a workers’ representative; and Jasem Bandarani, another worker at the Khawrazmi subcontracting company. The arrests followed protest rallies near the main offices of the petrochemical complex which included marches and chants. The three arrested workers have since been released.
The strikes have been backed by the International Chemical and Energy Workers Union (ICEM), and Justice for Iranian Workers, which is backed by the ITUC, global union federations and national unions like the TUC, has also backed the strikers.