Union rights appeal to new Iranian President
On Sunday, the new President of Iran Dr Hassan Rouhani will be sworn in, and I’ve just signed a joint union appeal (together with Amnesty International and the International Centre for Trade Union Rights) calling on him to take the opportunity for a fresh start on union rights.
The appeal was organised by the UK-based Committee for the Defence of Iranian People’s Rights (CODIR), and reflects the general feeling of optimism that Dr Rouhani’s election has produced. The TUC has prioritised the defence of trade unionists in recent years, but has consistently made clear that we would oppose external military intervention, and have insisted that while we can show solidarity and international pressure for human rights is necessary, Iran’s freedom will depend on the actions of the Iranian people.
Iran has been one of the toughest places to be a trade unionist for many years. It has almost nothing to do with the religious requirements of the Islamic Republic, and everything to do with maintaining the political power of the ruling elite and the economic wealth of employers. Unions challenge both elites, although the main campaigns waged by Iranian unions have been around bread and butter workplace rights such as layoffs, unpaid wages, pay increases, childcare and even the provision of work uniforms.
International solidarity campaigns have focused on the right of unions to organise freely and independently of the state (there are two different forms of state-run unions in Iran, one explicitly Islamic, the other known as “Workers’ House”). And we have consistently protested about the continuing incarceration of Iranian trade unionists – often imprisoned for vague charges by so-called ‘revolutionary courts’.
The CODIR-organised statement mentions in particular:
- Reza Shahabi, Treasurer General of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed), who was released temporarily in January for medical treatment but then returned to jail; and
- Ali Nejati, the former leader of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company (HTSCC) trade union, who we first campaigned for 4 years ago.