Citing Empty Promises from Authorities, Industrial Strikers Persist

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Workers from the Iran National Steel Industrial Group (INSIG) in Ahvaz and the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Business (HTSA) continue to mobilize around enduring contentions with their employers, including delayed wages.

August 29th marked the workers’ 12th day of consecutive striking and pressing for concessions from these two major industries in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

“Us Haft Tapeh workers pay the price when incompetent managers mess up,” one Haft Tapeh worker told HRANA. “We’re not going anywhere, and if the managers have something to say, let them come and say it to all of us. What kind of murderers are we being taken for when managers who don’t come to work force us to go to Ahvaz?”

Hamid Zarif-Khasraj, head of the local unit of the Shush County welfare and Shush labor office, told HRANA that 6,000 workers are owed three months in back wages, while some of the sugarcane cutters have been working without pay for five. He said his department was “looking into the case” to ensure the latter group gets compensated.

HTSA workers recently learned from their insurance print-outs that their company had changed hands, Zarif-Khasraj said. Concerns over company outsourcing and privatization have been central to the workers’ demands.

According to the country-wide workers’ group Free Labour Union of Iran (FULI), the Shush County governor and other authorities met with workers’ representatives on August 28th. They wanted the strikers to go back to work, but didn’t offer concrete guarantees, FULI said.

When the Shush County governor delivered an address to the workers on Wednesday, in which he made similarly vague promises, he was met with more protests.

Steelworker protest in Ahvaz: Day 11

On August 29th, workers of Iran National Steel Industrial Group (INSIG) in Ahvaz continued their 11th straight day of gathering before Khuzestan’s provincial governorate in protest.

“INSIG is dying by the hands of Bank Melli [its owner],” and “death to the oppressor” counted among slogans being chanted by the workers.

INSIG has been at a detrimental shortage of raw material, stalling both production and worker payroll. The company’s CEO Kasra Ghafoori had previously promised raw material by August 28th.

INSIG is a conglomerate employing about 4,000 workers who have not been paid in months. Long wage delays are what sparked initial protests on Saturday, August 18th, where workers demanded payment of four months’ back wages and a renewal of INSIG’s raw material supply.