Hundreds of Iranian steelworkers continued their protest gathering in front of the local governor’s office in Ahvaz in southern Iran on Wednesday, February 28. On the same day a frustrated sugar cane plant worker took his own life after months of unpaid work, Radio Farda reports.
The steelworkers called on their employer, the National Iranian Steel Industry Group, to pay their delayed salaries. They also called for the resignation of the factory’s owner Abdolreza Musavi and the governor-general of Khouzestan province Gholamreza Shariati.
The protest gathering on Wednesday took place one day after the two men had promised that only one month of the steelworkers’ salary would be paid within a day or two. This comes while the workers have not been paid for longer than three months now, Iranian media reported.
The governor-general of Khuzestan province told the official news agency IRNA that the factory’s owner has sent the workers’ salary to Ahvaz, but it is enough for only one month’s pay. According to an independent labor union in Iran, “the steelworkers are seriously unhappy and have not been convinced.”
Earlier reports said that the steelworkers’ strike started on February 18 with 3,500 workers taking part in the walkout. The steel factory was established in 1967. The Ahvaz Steel Industry Group was handed over to Iran’s judiciary after its previous owner was executed for financial corruption. The judiciary later transferred the company to Bank Melli Iran.
In October 2017, the bank gave the company’s ownership to Abdolreza Musavi, the managing director of Zagros Airline, who also owns a major soccer club in Ahvaz and two hotels on Kish Island in the Persian Gulf. The independent labor union also reported that the factory’s retired workers also joined the protest gathering on Wednesday.
According to labor activists, the protracted non-payment of workers’ salaries is one of the major problems facing Iranian workers. The problem has led to labor unrest in various parts of Iran. Some of the workers have told Jame’eh Now news website that several workers have been arrested by the factory’s security and other security organizations.
The news website quoted workers as saying that most workers are in debt because they have no other source of income. Some of them have their bank accounts shut by the banks, as they have been unable to pay their debts. The workers’ medical insurance is no longer valid as the factory has failed to pay their premiums, the website reported.
The website added that 4000 workers of the Ahvaz Steel Industry Group do not have a labor union to protect their rights, while workplaces with only 35 workers are entitled to set up unions.
In another development in Khuzestan province, a sugar cane company worker in Haft Tappeh, who was deeply in debt, committed suicide, reported Iran’s Labor News Agency (ILNA) on Wednesday. The report said the worker drowned himself in a nearby water canal, but the company’s public relations office has tried to conceal the cause of the man’s death.
Both ILNA and the sugar cane company union say the worker took his life after the employer refused to give him a short-term loan to sort out the financial problems caused by non-payment of his salary for several months.
His colleagues told reporters that he was tired of the situation, and was going to commit suicide in order to attract the attention of officials to the problem. A social networking channel Telegram reported hours after the man’s death that the company would soon pay one month’s salary to the workers. The independent labor union later reported that workers at Haft Tapeh laid out a symbolic empty tablecloth to highlight the workers’ financial problem.