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۱۳۹۲ اسفند ۱۲, دوشنبه

Workers’ Protests, Demand for Wage Increases and the Need for Unity in Action in Labor-Union Movement

With implementation and broadening of Islamic Republic’s neo-liberal and anti-worker policies during the last two decades, our country’s working class and toilers have experienced declining wages and purchasing power. With coming to power of the Ahmadinejad’s coup-d’etat government, and prevalence of wide-spread corruption in all facets of the government and society, soaring inflation on a daily basis and lack of policies to control it, have made workers’ life and work, extremely unbearable.

With awarding of profitable companies to capitalists (lets call corrupt individuals) - with a hundredth or even a thousandth of the real price - closing of the factories under the un-profitability pretext, dismissing of workers on large scales, has sky-rocketed the workers’ unemployment. According to the government statistics, youth unemployment rate in Lorestan, Eilam and Kordestan provinces are above 40 percent. The unemployment rate that Rouhani spoke of during the presidential elections was 26 percent. This high level of unemployment has resulted in soaring exploitation and refusal to pay minimum-wages in most of the establishments and factories; where this itself has amplified workers’ protests, and now, these protests are spreading all-over the country.

Islamic Republic is frightful of the extent of spreading of these protests, and through different means, has resorted to threatening, repression and detention of the labor activists; where detention of workers’ representatives in Poliekril Factory in Esphahan province, large scale detention of Chadremlo mine workers in Yazd province, and security forces’ barbaric attack on 221 Tabriz-Kaf tile factory workers are recent examples. The more prominent feature of these protests is the united and organized presence of hundreds and thousands of workers; and this itself is a hopeful achievement in these conditions. Once again workers’ organized ranks have shown that the capitalists and the government supporting them are incapable of confronting the workers’ unified power. During the 35 years of Islamic Republic’s rule, all kinds of trade-political protests have faced shackles and chains; and during this period, to prevent formation and expansion of independent unions, they have organized lemon worker organizations, such as the Islamic Work Councils; which is a violation of the labor-union rights. During workers’ daily life and struggle, these lemon organizations are increasingly becoming isolated; and in a long process, in factories and work environments, they will be pushed aside. According to a leading member of one of these organizations, all three (governmental) workers’ organizations combined, have been able to engage only one percent of the nine million labor’s population!

Hassan Rouhani’s government of the so called “foresight and hope” is taking the same path as that of Ahmadinejad; and with certain schemes is trying to adopt neo-liberal policies dictated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Every day wide-spread privatization and worker dismissals come into sight in every corner of the country; and with the “basket of the goods” plan, the government tries to divert the direction of the workers’ struggle; where this itself has resulted in expansion and intensification of the toilers’ protests.

Iranian labor-union movement has a deep-rooted tradition, and its history is full of valuable experiences. During 1940s, region’s largest labor organizations were formed in Iran; and in all spheres of life and work, workers had a strong presence; and with unity and successful organization of workers within their ranks, they were able to ratify the first Labor Law in Iran. They were able to organize the largest successful strike against the colonial Southern Oil Company (British), which resulted in retreat of the Company and the government supporting it. During the 1970s as well, labor-union activists were able to organize effective and militant organizations; where in-spite of the Pahlavi (Shah) regime’s severe oppression, in spreading the seeds of consciousness and organizing the workers and defending their rights, played an essential role. During the revolution as well, it was the oil industry workers’ unified action that brought the dependant Pahlavi regime to its knees; and the 1978 revolution became victorious. At this point also, using these militant traditions, Iranian workers will succeed in organizing their independent unions, for struggle in unified ranks to secure their rights, such as protection of the Social Security Organization, prevention of reform of the Labor Law in the interest of the big capitalists, demand for wage increases according to the actual inflation rate, and restoration of the labor-union rights. Our country’s working class and toilers consider restoration of the labor-union rights as its struggle’s first priority. In these conditions, to secure working class’s demands, also the immediate demand, such as the wage increases, unified action and unity of the ranks of the workers’ existing labor-union movement, is a necessity. Because of its nature and character, the labor-union movement includes all workers, regardless of their ideas, religion, race, gender and….. Therefore, to attain unity and labor-union movement’s unified action, the existing differences among different group of workers, is not and will never be an impossible obstacle to overcome. Based on this, at this point, unified action within the workers existing labor-union movement, is one of the pivotal responsibilities.