By Yasmine Mather, Workers Left Unity Iran
Over the last few weeks, as the Islamic regime in Iran tried to come to terms with the consequences of the sanctions imposed on 23 December 2006, and as the country prepared for more severe sanctions called for by the US, Iran’s supreme clerical leader Ayatollah Khamnei has tried to intervene directly in negotiations on the future of Iran’s nuclear programme and its relations with the US.
Indirect negotiations with the US (via Saudi Arabia) are part of this policy and it is very likely that both open and secret negotiations will continue. It is a snub for the president, Ahmadinejad and comes at a time when dissatisfaction with his economic policies (or lack of them) has eroded his support even amongst conservative MPs in Iran’s Majles [Parliament]. Almost a year and half after his election, his inflammatory rhetoric is failing to divert attention from major economic problems. The rate of inflation is estimated at 10-15%, unemployment remains a serious problem, yet the president has failed to propose a budget for the next year.
At the time of his election Ahmadinejad promised that he would put the country’s oil wealth “on people’s tables”, yet the government now plans to ration petrol to cut rising import costs incurred by Iran’s lack of refinery capacity.
Many have had to queue for hours to buy petrol in the last few weeks. So Iranians are angry about the incompetence of the administration when in the bitter cold of northern Iran, one of the world’s major oil producers, people can’t buy petrol. In Kurdistan, shortage of fuel has lead to a number of protests and demonstrations against the regime.
Elsewhere, workers’ struggles against non-payment of wages, factory closures and privatisation continue.
On 13 January Profileh-Pars workers who were in dispute with the management over dismissals and violation of their rights, as a consequence of the sale of their factory, were met by the management’s hired thugs, as they gathered outside the factory.
Management were supposed to meet with these workers at the offices of Industrial Mediation (Heyateh-Halleh-Ekhtelaf) but refused to attend the meeting.
Profileh-Pars factory was closed down in October 2006, managers claimed they were in debt and at that time they hadn’t paid any salaries to workers for over two months.
On the morning of Monday 15 January, more than 200 workers from Shahoo textile factory and Alomin Piro (Kurdistan) gathered in front of the provincial Labour office in Sanandaj demanding that the authorities deal with their demands. Both factories have closed down following privatisations and the workers have demanded unemployment insurance and payment of unpaid wages.
When the director of the Labour office informed the workers that, contrary to his promises a few weeks ago, he had not contacted Tehran about the workers’ demands, they became angry and started a demonstration, marching towards the local provincial offices.
In Kashan, central Iran, workers staged a sit in in front of the offices of the local representative of the supreme clerical leader Khamnei, in protest against privatisation of their plant and the subsequent job losses. Many of the workers had not been paid for months.
On Tuesday 16 January 200 workers from Pakriss factory in Semnan protested in front of the factory against plans by the new owners of the plant to sell the factory’s equipment and dismantling the factory.
These workers intended to demonstrate in the central streets of Semnan, however military and security forces stopped this attempt.
Like many workers who have lost their jobs through privatisation, these workers have maintained their unity and continue to gather and protest. They believe that as long as factory equipment remains in the plant, there is a chance of getting their jobs back.
A very large percentage of workers struggles concentrate on issues regarding factory closures.
For these workers their protest is not simply against the Islamic regime and its repressive police and security forces. They realise that “privatisation” and casualisation, are part of the policies of all third world countries following neo-liberal economic policies, often imposed, however indirectly, by world capitalism.
In this respect these workers do not consider military intervention against Iran, sanctions or any other effort leading to regime change from above as a solution to their problems. In their slogans and their leaflets they show disdain not only for Iran’s nuclear programme, but also for US policies in the region. In other words, their hatred of Islamic capitalists and their backers in the regime has not made them sympathetic to pro-US capitalists.