A strike by Iranian oil workers has spread to at least 70 oil, gas, and petrochemical companies across eight provinces.
It started among fixed term contract workers a day after the 18 June presidential elections.
The workers, mainly scaffolders, fitters, welders and electricians, want wages increased from £220 to £370 a month. The inflation rate in Iran is 50 percent a year now.
They are also demanding the implementation 2010 labour laws that give fixed term contract workers ten days off for every 20 workdays. Currently only permanent workers—whose numbers have fallen in recent years—are given the time off.
More days off could allow workers to return from oil rigs and facilities to homes that are often long distances away.
The workers also want better living conditions in communal dormitories, and higher health and safety measures. Some are calling for the abolition of subcontracting.
Most of the workers show up at workplaces, but refuse to work. Labour activists say that, if workers do not show up, they can be fired after three days or be pursued by security forces.
In July 2020, workers at 15 refineries, petrochemical companies, and power plants took part in a nationwide campaign for extra pay and other rights.
The latest action—called “Campaign 1400” as the year 2021 is known in the Iranian calendar—is much bigger. It was launched under the banner, “We Do Not Give Up Our Rights.”
The Council for Organising Contract Oil Workers’ Protests, which supports the rights of 41,000 contract workers in the oil industry, issued its second statement this week.
It said, “During the recent protest, many of our colleagues have gone on strike and left their workplace and gone home. However, others have stayed in their dormitories. By increasing our numbers, we aim to draw attention to our demands.”
“We want to be involved in the decision-making process that helps to realise our demands.
“We have seen that sometimes the management of some companies has ruthlessly fired the striking day-workers and replaced them immediately.”
There are reports that 700 workers employed by contractors at the Tehran Refinery have been fired.
President Hassan Rouhani told the cabinet on Wednesday that the strike had not affected and would not affect production, distribution and exports. This, he said, was despite the claims of “anti-Iranian satellite TV propaganda machines”.
The false friends of Iranian workers—the US, Britain and their allies—will try to use any revolt against the regime for their own advantage. They do this while implementing punishing sanctions that hit Iranian workers hard. Such imperialist powers should be spurned.
But struggles such as this strike are not the result of imperialist agitation. It reflects resistance against a regime that oppresses and exploits workers.
It was the oil workers’ strikes in late 1978—amid mass protests by workers, students and the poor—that defeated Shah Reza Pahlavi’s murderous US-backed regime.