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۱۳۹۲ مهر ۵, جمعه

Wage – Inflation Gap and Workers’ Demand

When at the end of the 1391 (March 2013), the country’s official statistics showed near 32 percent inflation rate, and the real inflation rate was estimated to be 40 percent; after several delays in determining minimum wage increase for the 1392, Ahmadinejad’s government and the Grand Labor Council (where the management and government representatives have larger representation), finally announced a 25 percent raise. From the moment the wage increase was announced, the working class and toilers facing extremely high unemployment and sever living difficulties, showed their condemnation in different forms of strikes, sit-ins in front of the parliament and governors’ offices, marches and complaints to the Workplace Justice Office. During the final days of the tenth government (Ahmadinejad’s government), with maneuvers intended to diminish the protests, the government announced a modification to the salaries as a hundred percent increase in housing allowance of the workers; the increase, to everyone’s astonishment was 10 thousand Tomans per month (three thousand Tomans is approximately one dollar), and according to ILANA’s report, this amount was like throwing salt on workers’ wounds. The wage increase announcement also included 15 thousand Tomans of provisions allowance, which is supposed to be implemented.

It has to be mentioned that the poverty line in Iran, which includes housing, clothing, health care and education cost for a family of four people, is one million five hundred thousand Tomans per month. This figure is astronomically different from the announced four thousand eighty-seven thousand Tomans of monthly minimum salary; and the added 10 thousand or 25 thousand Tomans is really throwing salt on workers’ and wage-earners’ wounds. In addition, the retired workers, and a large segment of the workers working at the small plants, are not covered by the Labor-Law; therefore, will not even receive this meager increase.

What is the eleventh government’s plan for decreasing the wage-inflation gap; the government which came to power with the promise of improving the peoples’ living condition? According to the Minister of Labor’s (Mr. Rabiehi) recent claim in Systan and Baluchestan, the inflation rate of food items is more than 60 percent. Is the current level of wages sufficient for such a rampant inflation? We must keep in mind that 40 million of Iran’s 75 million populations are workers and toilers; and on daily basis, they are faced with increases in the cost of essential items and unavailability of medicine and……. For such an immense difficulty of the working class, do the parliament and the Ministry of Labor have a plan? Evidences indicate that not only they do not have a plan, but the government’s announced economic-social programs, which are similar to the World Bank’s dictated policies to the previous governments, will be implemented. Based on such policies, the Labor Law will also be changed and the social security will be constrained as well; the government even intends to privatize social security, a program which is the result of working class’ long-term struggles during the decades of 1320 (1940s).

Is Mr. Rouhani’s government, with its current cabinet structure, where supporters of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s policies are serving in key economic sectors, capable of responding to such a wage-inflation gap? Daily evidences do not show a hopeful sign. With 487 thousand Tomans of monthly salary (Grand Labor Council’s early 2013 decree) and in the inflated market, where inflation is rising in an unprecedented manner, the wage-earners must take care of their housing and living expenses; and to cover the rest of their expenses, if they can find other jobs, work at two or three other jobs as well.

With the start of the schools at the beginning of Mehr (20th of September), and having to provide for the educational expenses of their children, will double the pressure on workers and wage-earners. With the wide-spread lay-offs and closing of most industries, securing the required funds for their children’s clothing, school-supplies, and worse than all, registration fee for the public! schools; where according to the Article 30 of the constitution, until completion of the middle-school, the government is required to provide free education to all its citizens; will be added to workers’ concerns. Evidences show that the high cost of schools and education, prevent workers’ children from attending schools and getting education; and multiply the working class’ difficulties.

For every year, workers demand yearly salaries to be determined on real inflation rates basis; we witness this all over the country, at every workers’ gathering and protest.

Only through organizing and coming together in independent unions and unified protests, the Iranian workers can put an end to the conditions of low wages, high prices and unemployment.