In a wide-ranging interview, Maziyar Guilaninejhad, Coordinator of the Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics in Iran (UMMI), assesses the current situation for trade unionists. IT: Could you give us a
Dear US Steelworker Comrades In recent months and weeks, the US administration has adopted a dangerous approach and policy in relation to our country. By leaving the JCPOA agreement, which
The beat of war drums sounds a threat to the lives of the children of working people in Iran and the United States!
UMMI’s Statement for Peace Global capitalism needs a war to get out of its self-created crisis and would not hesitate to sacrifice Iranian and American youth in imposing the cost
Dear Mr. President Hassan Rouhani, I am writing this letter to you as the General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, which represents more than fifty million workers in mining, energy
Message of the General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union to Union of the Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran
Dear Comrades, I wish to thank you very much for your solidarity message. IndustriALL Global Union fully appreciates the struggle of the Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran (UMMI), and is
We have been informed that the security forces in the city of Ahvaz have this week summoned seven steel workers – including Mustafa Abyat, Amin Alvani, Karim Sayyahi, Hassan Hamoodi, Tariq Khalafi, Peyman Shajrati and Meytham (Meysam?) Ghanavati – to present themselves to the authorities. Read more
The current year started amidst a worsening situation for the workers and escalating unrest with the ruling regime continuing to ignore the compounding crisis. To silence the voice of those reacting to the mounting crisis, they have arrested teachers; allowed the closure of the Hepco factory; ordered the railway workers of Lorestan to curtail their protesting of unpaid salaries; continued to fail to pay the due pensions of Abadan’s Petrochemical Factory’s retired workforce; fired 500 workers from the Haraz Dam; and permitted contractors in the oil fields to delay the payment of the workers’ wages for more than 4 months. Read more
Women form almost half the population of our country. This segment of society, mothers, wives, sisters or daughters, have for many years been subjected to discrimination and inequality. At times, this inequality has led to their elimination from various social activities (often under the pretence of protecting them). The result has been nothing but profound frustration and anger. Some of the influencing factors that promote inequality and discrimination against women, at family level, include poverty, addiction, unemployment, illiteracy and family traditions. Read more
Statement of the Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran
During the past few days, we have witnessed the plundering by the government of workers’ savings in the Social Security Fund, while Osman Esmaili, a painter and decorator, Mohammad Habibi, a teacher and member of the Executive Board of Tehran Teachers’ Association and ten protesting workers of the National Iranian Steel Industrial Company in Ahvaz city were unlawfully and violently arrested. These events are taking place during the closing days of the Iranian calendar year (21 March 2017- 20 March 2018) and coincide with the announcement of the national minimum wage at the New Year.
Whose interests were threatened by Osman Esmaili that he was dispatched to jail?
What was in the teaching of Mohammad Habibi at the conservatoire that he deserved to be arrested using pepper spray and beatings and imprisoned?
Have workers of the National Iranian Steel Industrial Company in Ahvaz city asked for anything other than their wages? Are the officials who have issued arrest warrants for these people able to go without their salaries for months that they have issued warrants for the steelworkers of Ahvaz?
The attack on our brothers, who are merely demanding their wages and salaries stolen by the embezzlers and unscrupulous managers, is an illogical and unreasonable response contrary to national interests. Instead of dealing in this way with workers who have been starving and penniless for months, those responsible for creating this social disorder through their policies should themselves have been arrested so that chaos and mayhem are not perpetuated in society.
We call on the Ahvaz Judiciary to release immediately the following ten arrested Ahvaz Steel Company workers: Farhad Akbarian, Mortaza Akbarian, Meytham Ali Ghanavati, Amin Momenpour, Hossein Nisi, Bagher Delphi, Taghi Hassanzadeh, Hadi Afravi, Mehdi Adelzadeh and one other. We also demand the release of Mohammad Habibi, Osman Esmaili, Reza Shahabi and other trade union and social activists.
We now declare that those who have issued the arrest warrants, together with the jailers of these workers and also of Mohammad Habibi and Osman Esmaili, are responsible for their safety and security.
Ahvaz Steel Workers, Brothers and Sisters!
According to Article 3 of the Labour Code, “managers and responsible officials, and, in general, all those who are responsible for the workplace are considered as employer’s representatives, and the employer is responsible for all the obligations that the representatives assume in relation to the worker.” Therefore, the Provincial Governor and the Head of the Ahvaz Provincial Court, as representatives of the government, are responsible for paying your unpaid and delayed wages.
Your protests are also legitimate and legal. Article 27 of the Constitution allows the whole nation to organise and participate in rallies, strikes and protests, and no person or institution can deprive the people of Iran of this right. Those who deny this right violate the law and must be brought to justice.
The Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran continues to stand with you and does not hesitate to render you any kind of assistance in reclaiming your social and legal rights and will use all its strength and the resources at its disposal to provide you with legal support.
We salute the workers of National Iranian Steel Industrial Company in Ahvaz city
For the strengthening of the unity of all trade union and social activists!
The Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran
3 March 2018
Kemal Özkan of IndustriALL interviews Maziyar Gilaninejhad, president of the Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran in Yerevan, October 2017
Q1. Introduction by Kemal Özkan (KO) regarding UMMI and its affiliation to IndustriALL.
Would Maziyar Gilaninejhad (MG) explain how independent trade unions are trying to operate under difficult circumstances in Iran… Can you please tell us about your union? Whom do you represent? Information about your organization etc.
MG: In our country, Article 26 of the Constitution enshrines the right of workers’ organizations, trade unions and political organizations to form and recruit members and clearly states that nobody should interfere with their activities – as has been articulated in ILO Conventions 87 and 98 – but unfortunately this has not been observed or respected and the trade unions in Iran are put under extremely heavy pressure should they try to engage in any meaningful activities.
And this is not only the case regarding UMMI – all our brother independent trade unions in Iran, including Sherkat-e Vahed (Bus Workers’ Union), Haft Tappeh Syndicate (Sugar Cane Mill/Plant Workers) and the Syndicate of the Project and Contract Workers are all facing the same issues and, occasionally, the leaders and activists of these trade unions are arrested and imprisoned.
At present, Reza Shahabi is in prison and it was only two days ago that he ended the hunger strike he commenced in protest at his imprisonment – unfortunately, his health has been completely neglected by the authorities and there were real concerns for his life had he continued [with his hunger strike].
Also, the president of the Free Trade Unions of Iran, Jafar Azimzadeh, has been recently recalled to prison. He is not in a very good condition health-wise either and if he is forced to go back to prison then his physical health will certainly deteriorate and his life will be in danger.
These are the conditions under which we work in Iran. We are prevented from operating offices or holding bank accounts for the trade unions. In Iran, the regime does not allow us to have legal gatherings and prevent the likes of me, Reza Shahabi, Ebrahim Madadi, Davoud Razavi and Nasser Aghajari – as they don’t accept that we are legitimate workers’ representatives – from representing our trade unions and under no circumstances will they enter into any negotiations with us whatsoever.
As a result of these limitations, those workers who would like to get involved with their trade union and become active members are forced to think again and they look at trade union activities with some concern and doubt. We have been attacked on numerous occasions. For example, in 2009, in an attack on the meeting of a cooperative for consumer goods run by the UMMI, 15 people were arrested. And, towards the end of that same year, we again witnessed some arrests and then again more recently.
These arrests cause those workers who are thinking of becoming involved to become hesitant in taking the next steps to join the union and become active. As a result, we often have difficulty in recruiting members officially. We face many difficulties in organizing open activities.
Of course, there are certain officials in the government and judiciary that try a softer line in relation to us. However, the limitations are just too extensive. For example, if we write letters to the Ministry of Labour or Parliament in respect of some of our issues, we’ll receive replies but these are insubstantial and never reflect the provisions of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 – they do not even satisfy the spirit of Articles 26 or 27 of the current Constitution of our country. And, as a result, this means that our outward impact and visibility in society is limited.
KO: What does the affiliation to IndustriALL mean for you? What are your expectations? What do you need exactly? What can we do to support your democratic union activities in the country?
MG: Firstly, I am so grateful to IndustriALL who wrote a letter to Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian President, and asked him to consider the situation of Reza Shahabi and other trade union and political prisoners – and I thank you for this.
This international solidarity; the fact that we can come to Yerevan and attend meetings with you; the fact that you ask me about our situation, this gives us strength. It strengthens our heart and resolve and gives confidence to us and our workers. They now realise that their brothers on the international scene have not abandoned them and are standing by them.
Our membership of IndustriALL has meant that we are working harder, more energetically, because we now know that we can channel our complaints to the ILO via IndustriALL in relation to the violation of laws and workers rights and that our issues will be brought to international attention and be raised at that level.
The fact is that the issues that Iranian workers confront are not so different from those faced by workers in, for example; Sweden, Turkey, Pakistan and Germany – they are often the same – the forces of capitalism are attacking our achievements, trying to destroy them and reverse the situation, essentially take us back.
For example, in Iran, they want to raise the retirement age to 65, they want to limit national insurance cover and social security, they want to increase the length of the working week at the same time as reducing salaries and wages – they are, in effect, trying to ensure that neo-liberalism governs every aspect of life and the working conditions in Iran just as elsewhere in the world.
At the moment, in our country, in the oil and gas industry, some workers receive their salaries up to six months in arrears! There are a lot of protests against this practice though unfortunately nobody seems to be paying any attention. We are planning to write a letter to the Iranian Parliament and to raise the importance of them passing a law which prohibits this delayed payment of salaries. This law that we request should penalize those employers that do not pay their workers on time so that the very minimum expectation amongst workers that their salaries will be paid and that they can provide food for their families can be realized and not put on hold for six months.
I can’t understand how those who don’t pay their workers salaries for six months … how do they live? Would they be able to carry on if they didn’t receive their salaries for even two months while they expect their workers to accept not receiving their own wages for six months and to continue to work without protest?
In the oil industry, those project workers who represent their fellow workers on these issues or protest are subsequently blacklisted and will never be able to work in that industry again. And, this is a very blatant cruelty perpetrated towards a worker who is limited to working in that industry.
Work is not abundant and there is high unemployment. And they – the government and employers – use the existence of this army of the unemployed as a weapon against those working – not only in Iran but across the world – in order to undermine wages and lower conditions of service.
Unfortunately, we are faced with these problems. The fact that we are able to raise this; to tell our friends in IndustriALL; the fact that our Swedish friends, before they came to Iran, stated their solidarity with and support for us – this gives us strength. When they come to Iran, we ask them to raise the issues of the Iranian peoples’ rights within the European Union. We asked our Swedish friends that in their own country and in the European Union they try and raise the issue of the lifting sanctions in respect of food and medical items and supplies – because the sanctions are an instrument of war against the Iranian working class. And, we demand this.
When this happens, when our Swedish brothers do this, it strengthens us and warms our heart. In addition, we – in these brotherly relations with IndustriALL – would be able to benefit from the facilities of IndustriALL, such as training and education facilities.
So, our workers can come and receive training and become familiar with the viewpoints of our brothers in IG Metall, our brothers in Sweden, Yerevan or elsewhere, and see what they think, what problems they have, what plans and programmes they envision – this provides the opportunity for us to learn from you and also for you to realize what conditions we are contending with in Iran.
With the demonstrations starting on 28 December 2017, Iran faces widespread protests against the rising cost of living. The protests quickly spread to many cities as people raised their voices against poverty, corruption and embezzlement by officials, and brutal political repression. Read more
We hope and wish that New Year 2018 will bring with it world peace, happiness and the realisation of that which every decent human being in the world desires – respect, dignity and justice.
More than 1,000 workers added their names to a petition to the public broadcaster, calling on the organization to send an investigative team to report on terrible working conditions and unpaid wages. Read more
The most important principle of contract and project work in the oilfields is following safety rules. One important function of real trade unions is to monitor the safety status of workplaces by dispatching health and safety officers to visit workplaces or requesting governmental inspectors to visit workplaces periodically. We have all experienced painful events at workplaces. I started project work in 2003 and worked for Sadr Shimi Shiraz Co. and in that company’s premises a steam boiler exploded & an engineer was fatally injured. Read more
In the Name of God
Respected Director of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation (IRIB),
Managing Director of the News Network
And Mr. Seyyed Mehrdad Seyyed Mehdi Read more