By Peter Tase
On July 5, I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with an Iranian worker who is a craftsman in the gas and oil industry, located in the southern region of Iran. This interview was conducted regarding a major strike that was held nationwide in the recent weeks.
Below is included the full text of this interview that was conducted on behalf of Eurasia Review.
Question 1: What is your job and what do you do? Are you participating in the strike of Oil & Gas workers and employees?
Answer: Greetings, I would like to thank you and your esteemed colleagues for giving me this opportunity to be the voice of Iranian workers and craftsmen, especially the workers and craftsmen of Oil & Gas and petrochemical sector. Thank you for enabling me to pass this message through your media and hopefully to the rest of world press and consequently, to the other countries’ officials, authorities, and international organizations. Since there is a media restriction in Iran on news publication for the labor sector, I hope that you publish these comprehensive issues and problems of Iranian workers for the international communities and supporters of workers to know that in Iran the working and living conditions of workers are dire.
My name is Farshad. I am a seasonal and temporary worker in the Oil & Gas and petrochemical sectors in South Pars region in southern Iran located in Asalouyeh City, in Boushehr Province.
I participated in last year’s strikes, and this year, from the very first days of strikes and labor protests, I stopped working and returned to my hometown, and I will stand with my other colleagues and friends until the end to realize our demands. And I hope this year’s campaign, nicknamed 20, 10 campaign, will bear fruit, and that the authorities will pay attention to legitimate demands of workers and stand by the workers, instead of facing them.
Question 2: When did your strike start? And what is the purpose of this strike and what are your demands?
Answer: The strikes started about two weeks ago and the goal and demands of all workers, especially workers and craftsmen in the gas, oil, and petrochemical sectors, who are mostly in the southern regions of Iran which has a very hot climate and very difficult to work. These demands could be easily met with little cost and expenses to the government or other authorities. These demands include:
a. Reduction of working days from 24 days to 20 days per month due to the difficulty of working conditions in the sweltering weather of southern regions such as Khuzestan, Bushehr, and Bandar Abbas.
b. A raise in wages and salaries, due to inflation and high prices of materials and items needed for life
c. To eliminate the role of middlemen and contractors
d. Job security and the signing of long-term contracts from the first days of employment
e. On-time payment of wages and salaries
f. Providing proper eating and resting accommodations and facilities.
Question 3: In which areas and cities are you and your colleagues and workers Strike? And approximately in how many cities and provinces is this strike going on?
Answer: Strikes are taking place in almost all parts of the country, but the focal point of strikes is in the southern regions of Iran, which have very difficult working conditions at this time of year and have unbearable summer heat above 50 degrees Celsius. The strike began on June 19, and on the first days, there were strikes in 8 provinces and they spread to other areas during these few days. Cities and companies and other sectors besides workers in Oil & Gas and petrochemical industries such as farmers and retirees and bus companies and truckers and teachers have joined the strikes and supported the strike. Even the medical community have supported the strikes and promised to join the strikes in the coming days. Bushehr, Khuzestan, Bandar Abbas, Isfahan, Kerman, Arak, Ilam, Lorestan, Tehran, West Azerbaijan and several other cities in other provinces are currently on strike.
Question 4: Tell us a little about the economic and living conditions of yourself and your family and the rest of your co-workers and workers?
Answer: I have been working in the Oil & Gas and petrochemical industry for about 14 years and almost 90% of the workers in this sector have similar financial and living conditions. We are unable to provide the necessities of a simple life and living expenses for ourselves and our families. Considering the high inflation, daily spikes in prices of almost everything, especially basic needs, lower than average wages and salaries, the non-timely payment of wages,… we have no choice but to strike because there are no labour laws to protect the workers in Iran, and no official or government body thinks about our welfare. They are totally unaware of our miserable working and living conditions. The Iranian working class will not resolve their problems and their problems will pile up day by day unless they have trade unions, syndicates and get organized themselves. If Iranian system of slavery that is imposed on the working class does not change and gets eliminated, the workers’ problems continue.
Considering that I have worked on several projects abroad and I have witnessed the capabilities of Iranian artisans and workers in the Oil & Gas and petrochemical sectors, I am sure that Iranian technical workers and artisans are among the geniuses and top technical workers. But unfortunately, they have been trapped by the mafia of power and wealth and gangs and bribery and favoritism inside the country. The rights of Iranian workers must be highly respected, and with the unity and brotherhood of Iranian workers, hand in hand and together, we will stand firm until our rights and demands are realized, and we will continue our strikes until the end.
Question 5: Explain the situation of other guilds in Iran, such as teachers, retirees, and farmers?
Answer: In the current situation in Iran and due to inflation and high prices and low wages and devaluation of the national currency, almost 80% of Iranians are dissatisfied with the current situation in the country economically, socially, culturally, and politically. Wealthy people in Iran are about 10% of the population and about 30% of Iranians are middle class and 60% of Iranians live below the poverty line. We witness protests and strikes in different sectors every month, even every week. Given the enormous natural resources, the people of Iran deserve a much better and dignified life. We deserve the best living and working conditions.
Question 6: While according to foreign media, the participation rate of Iranian people was very little in the recent elections, Ebrahim Raessi has been named by Khamenei as the next president of Iran. What do you think about the recent elections in Iran? What do you and the Iranian people think about Raessi, who is said to have been involved in the murder of thousands of political prisoners in Iran?
Answer: Regarding the presidential and city council elections, I witnessed how low the turnout was on election day, and in all provinces and cities of the country, turnout was less than 20%, and if the presidential election did not coincide with city council elections then the turnout for presidential election would be less than 10. This unprecedented low turnout is a powerful signal of the dissatisfaction and frustration of the people with the government. It could actually be considered a referendum of how dissatisfied and disappointed the people are with the government. For the past two years, most Iranians have had a strong feeling that Raisi will be the appointed president in 2021. They know Raisi well. His role in the oppressive machine of the regime and his instrumental role in the killing of political dissidents and thousands of political prisoners in recent years, including the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. The Iranian people know very well that they have eight difficult years ahead of them, with Raisi as the president.
Question 7: What is the request of you and your colleagues who are on strike from international organizations regarding the situation of striking workers and employees in Iran?
Answer: Considering that the working class in Iran does not have its own media, union or any official status, on the one hand, and regime’s constant threats, intimidations, hollow promises and spreading false and fabricated news, on the other hand, makes it extremely hard for our just voice to be heard in Iran and abroad. On behalf of the Iranian workers, I ask you to take our concerns and demands to the world, international media, and labor unions. I long for the day that the Iranian workers, like the workers of other countries in the world, will be able to have a good, happy and comfortable life and will be able to achieve their dreams. And finally, once again I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be the voice of Iranian workers expressing our demands.