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۱۳۹۳ آبان ۷, چهارشنبه

Islamic Republic’s Ploys in Confronting Toilers’ Protest Movement

Rouhani’s assuming responsibility in the condition of economic recession of the recent years in our country, and escalation of implementation of the economic programs dictated by organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, meaning programs of “Free Market Economy – Resistance Economy”, our country’s workers’ and toilers’ conditions have deteriorated more than ever. Faster implementation of economic policies of privatization, deregulation in places of work and work relations, deregulation of prices by elimination of subsidies (Targeting of the Subsidies Law), attempts in deregulation of workers’ wages, have destroyed toilers’ lives and their job-security.
During the recent months we have witnessed wide-spread, persistent, but isolated labor protests in different parts of the country. At the start of its work about 15 months ago, Rouhani’s government and its Minster of Labor Ali Rabieih were well aware of the conditions of the government made labor organizations. In addition to continual disputes among these organization for better share of the government provided opportunities, because of collusion with all Islamic Republic governments and continually turning their backs to Iranian workers’ class interests during all their active period, workers were well conscious of the true nature of the government made labor organization. As an example, according to ILNA’s (Iranian Labor News Agency) January 29, 2014 report, during the nation-wide Workers’ House’s Executive Committee meeting, Hassan Sadegy, Deputy General Secretary of the Workers’ House on provincial issues indicated, “The total number of three labor organizations’ (three official government organizations) members is not even one percent of the total nine million and seven hundred thousand workers.” When cooperation of some of leaders of these organizations with Mortazavy’s plunder of workers’ Social Security funds became known, standing of the official labor organizations even became much worse. As an example, in a conversation with ILNA on August 18, 2014, President of the central provinces’ Workers’ Grand Center for Trade Associations considered, “Presence of workers’ representatives accused of looting workers’ belongings at the head of the official labor organizations, several months after exposure of Social Security assets’ plunder, as a dark and shameful point in Judiciary and Ministry of Labor’s dossier”; and after pointing to the current positions of six leaders of three government made labor organizations who had received “large sums of money” from Mortazavy, he added, “The minimum expectation of workers is to be aware of the process of investigation of plunder of their assets.”

According to ILNA’s January 18, 2014 report from the televised debate on 2014 workers’ wages, in program’s survey, “90 percent of the people supported the workers.” In other words, Rouhani’s government and its Minster of Labor Rabieih are also well aware of the peoples’ distrust of the government of “prudence and hope’s” empty slogans. During the recent 15 months, Hassan Rouhani and people in charge in his government, especially a former member of security forces Ali Rabieih, have tried hard to portray themselves as “popular” and denounce thieves of the Ahmadinejad governments as those mainly responsible for all our country’s difficulties. Minister of Labor Ali Rabieih has tried to deceive workers and prove that he is a “worker” and “of peoples’ nature (kind).” We will refer to several of Rabieih’s remarks: ISNA, August 2013, “I am here for workers’ job security”; ILNA, August 17, 2013, “I will bring smile back to workers’ children’s lips”; ILNA, February 8, 2014, “I was a factory worker myself, but I have become a minister now”; ILNA, April 28, 2014, “This is an honor for Islamic Revolution that today’s administrators are of peoples’ nature.”   

In some of the labor protests and strikes, Ministry of Labor officials personally, and in some cases even Rabieih himself, have tried to deceive workers and persuade them to give up their demands for just rights. But in some cases workers have practically turned down Rabieih’s requests and have openly shown their disbelief of his deception. During labor strikes, in cases that government authorities had to negotiate with workers’ representatives, to show their brutality to the workers, almost in all cases Ministry of Labor officials have shown up at the talks with authorities from the Ministry of Information, representatives from judiciary and revolutionary guard leaders. But available evidences show that these schemes have lost their past effectiveness as well. Just like eleventh government (Rouhani’s government) authorities, most officials of the government made labor organizations try to beautify the “prudence and hope” government’s appearance and blame anti-national governments of Ahmadinejad for all the failings. Workers’ House, and especially its General Secretary Alireza Mahjoub, has played a critical role in this respect. But because of the rivalries between the leaders of the so called labor organizations and their attempts in achieving higher positions, these “leaders” have hurt the government made labor organizations as well. On occasions, leaders of the yellow labor organizations even have admitted to the lack of independence of these labor organizations; or at least they have emphasized their rivals’ dependence to the government. We will submit two examples. On August 25, 2014, Secretary of the Center for Coordination of the Central Province’s Islamic Labor Councils, while indicating that “Islamic Labor Councils and other labor organizations recognized by the Labor Law lack independence in the real meaning of the word”, told ILNA, “In general, as long as labor trade organizations are not formed independently within the work-places, we can not expect positive actions from higher labor organizations”; and on September 13, 2014, in a conversation with ILNA, a member of the Iranian Workers’ Grand Center for Trade Associations indicated, “Up to now in which labor trade dispute these three organizations have taken a position so that we could expect them to take a position on the Social Security Organization’s embezzlement case connected with Mortazavy……Those who are elected in these organizations generally do not have the required independence, and their main goal is to reach the higher organization……and now, while with headlights-off they are trying to change the manner in which minimum wage is being determined, it is natural that because of fear of not being boycotted by the Ministry of Labor, some labor representatives prefer to stay quiet.”

Islamic Republic is well aware of the capacity of our country’s working class for creating real social-economic changes in the interests of the toilers. For oppressing the labor movement, Rouhani’s government does not consider using simply the security forces and Basich (militia) thugs sufficient; and it intends to expand its capabilities and elevate the organizational level of its own front. While Rouhani’s government and Minister of Labor Rabieih intend to use the yellow labor organizations to their full capacity; there are signs that the Ministry of Labor authorities have realized these organizations’ inability in opposing the labor movement. To confront the labor movement, in addition to elevating the security environment in places of work and Islamic Republic’s daily imposition of oppression in the society; one can say that the Rouhani’s government and its Labor Minster Rabieih with his security background, have started a four-way approach. 1. “Reforming structure” of the government made labor organizations; 2. “Changing the investigation structure of disputes between labor and management”; 3. Establishing management organizations and using them as a labor organization, and elevating organizational level of the capitalist class; 4. Increasing efforts for creating cracks within the workers and toilers.                       

1. According to September 26, 2014 Mehr News Agency’s report, Seid Hassan Hefdah-Tan, Ministry of Labor’s Deputy for Work Relations, called the country’s labor and management organizations “weak and devoid of power and sufficient influence to be involved in decision making in economic affairs”, and added, “Structure of these organizations need reform and review and purity in trade dimensions.” Of course, Ministry of Labor’s new program for reforming the “structure” of the government made organizations is not clear; however, these remarks could also be a warning for removal of people like the member of the Iranian Workers’ Grand Center for Trade Associations. In response to Hefdah-Tan’s remarks, on October 6, 2014, counselor for the Iranian Workers’ Grand Center for Trade Associations said, “I wish Mr. Hefdah-Tan would point to the fact that most weaknesses of the labor (government made) and management organizations are due to the interpretations, understandings and methods which Ministry of Labor had imposed on the those organizations.” Islamic Republic has initiated an extensive attack for deregulation of workers’ wages, making critical changes in the Labor Law and looting of the Social Security Organization’s assets. To beautify its anti-labor action and give a “tripartite” appearance to its assaults on workers’ class interests, the government needs completely obedient and submissive “labor organizations.”     

2. On September 18, 2014, Mohammad Essabaty, Work Inspection Director General told ILNA about a letter written by Rabieih to Minister of Justice requesting “creation of ‘specialized branches’ in Judiciary for investigation of violations of contents of the Labor Law”, and indicated, “Currently, as specialized courts, ‘Recognition and Resolution of Differences Committees’ of Labor offices around the country are responsible for resolving the differences between the workers and managers”; and on September 29, 2014, quoting Rabieih, Mehr News Agency reported of “changing the investigation structure of disputes between labor and management” and wrote, ”At present system of investigation of disputes is not adequate for labor and management regime and soon there will be a review.” In other words, Ministry of Labor’s Recognition and Resolution of Differences Committees’ responsibilities will be assigned to the Judiciary; meaning that Islamic Republic courts’ cruel judgments, such as the prison and whip verdict for the Razy Petrochemical workers, will gain legal recognition.

3. To strengthen capitalists’ organizational level, and if needed, to use organizations which by nature are managerial as labor organizations, in the recent months Ministry of Labor has tried to organize numerous management organizations around the country. We will submit two such reports. While criticizing Ministry of Labor for not responding to his letters, according to the September 14, 2014 report of ILNA, Secretary of the Center for Housing Workers’ Trade Associations of the country “reported of activities of naturally management groups that with Ministry of Labor’s support present themselves as housing workers’ representatives”; and added, “In non of those cases (Article 131 of the Labor Law) it has been stated that commercial, economical,…..companies are responsible for workers’ trade problems and can speak as representative of workers of a certain trade.” As another example, on September 7, 2014, President of the Central Province’s Bus Drivers’ Trade Association reported of “illegal formation of at least 5 driving workers’ trade association in that state” to ILNA and said, “There are about 500 of driving workers at the Central Province’s Bus Drivers’ Trade Association……New associations have been formed next to us which only use the labor title and there members are in fact employers.” According to ISNA’s report, during his three day visit of Iran, on October 9, 2014, Brent Wilton, Secretary General of the International Job Creators (Employers) Organization indicated, “For International Organization (for Employers), Iran’s management organization in the region is very important…..Our advise to governments is to get the private sector involved, provide counsel and establish organizations similar to the management organizations in the labor sector.”  According to the September 29, 2014 Mehr News Agency’s report, at the first Managing Board meeting of the Grand Center for Managers’ Trade Associations, Rabieih reported of creation of “1500 new labor and management organizations during one year work of the eleventh government (Rouhani’s government)” and indicated, “Management Grand Centers can serve as think-tanks for the management sector, so that their experts’ views can be transferred to the government……we must follow a solution to be able to have strong managers’ organizations.” Most likely, the 1500 “labor and management” organizations that Rabieih was referring to, are organizations of the kind mentioned in the last two reports; these reports and Rabieih’s own statements show that Ministry of Labor is actively trying to strengthen the management organizations. In addition to reinforcing the management front for confronting the labor movement inside the country, like Ahmadinejad’s Minister of Labor’s claim for having 8000 labor and management organizations in international meetings, the newly created “1500 labor and management organizations” claimed by Rabieih, can also strengthen Islamic Republic’s false standing in the International Labor Organization.

4. In combating our country’s labor movement, creating dispute and split in the working class’ front and among labor activists has been one of Islamic Republic’s effective and unending tools. But with intensification of the labor protests, we are witnessing government’s added use of this anti-labor weapon. As an example, despite having almost similar specialty and technical expertise with the official employees, 1800 Razy Petrochemical’s contracted and temporary workers make “several times less than” the official employees. Or, collecting and publishing of repulsive and fracturing remarks of Razy Petrochemical’s so called official employees as an article by ILNA News Agency, is a very clear example of government’s attempt in creating cracks among workers. Allowing “for the first time very limited number of contracted workers and their families” to participate in swimming training sessions of one of the Arvand Petrochemical swimming pools by managers of this production plant; and according to ILNA’s September 20th report, spouses of some official employees leaving the pool after contracted workers’ spouses enter the pool, is another revolting and calculated action of the factories’ managers and government’s Ministry of Labor.

Extensive labor protests, continuation of protests at least until the stage of obtaining an assurance for materialization of workers’ demands, resolute support of the workers’ of their real representatives in such a dire economic conditions, show a new level of maturity of our country’s labor movement. Independent syndicates and labor activists must use all openings in elevating workers’ organizational level. Organization of workers in their own independent syndicates, solidarity with and support of other workers’ strikes, united action of the existing and independent syndicates, can put an end to all this exploitation and it can be very effective and valuable in restoration of the labor union rights.