The first of May was International Labor Day. There were protests worldwide and people longed for better working conditions. But Labor Day in Iran was different. Protests in Iran received less coverage from the media. It’s not because Iranians enjoy their working conditions, which many state media describe as “modern day slavery.”
Low wages, hard working conditions and job insecurity could hardly describe the conditions of the Iranian workers. The country’s economic collapse, the high unemployment rate, which according to state media is around 11 percent, and the regime’s systematic repression of the workers’ syndicate leave no room for protests.
In other words, Iranian workers try very hard to earn a meager living and as soon as they demand a decent work environment, they lose their jobs and are replaced by other workers. Nevertheless, the state media continues to report on layoffs and strikes by workers who have not received their wages for months.
Iran sits atop the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserves, but Iranian workers can barely make a living. The regime authorities are shrugging off the workers’ demands. As the prices of basic commodities rise, the workers’ table shrinks.
“Faramarz Towfiqi, Head of the Wages Committee of the Supreme Council of Islamic Labor Councils, conducted a survey in April 2021 based on data from the International Monetary Fund and compiled a list of workers’ wages in different countries. This study shows that Iranian workers with a monthly minimum wage of $75 rank 160th and are considered cheap labor.” This was reported by the state Asr Iran on February 21, 2022.
“Interestingly, Burkina Faso has a higher position than Iran and also Bangladesh. These are impoverished countries. The crisis country Libya is rated higher than Iran. Even war-torn Iraq ranks higher than Iran!” Towfiqi added, as quoted by Asr Iran.
Since 2006, the supreme leader of the Iranian regime has been calling for the “privatization of the Iranian economy”. Fearing that their role in terrorism could damage their secretive financial system, the Revolutionary Guards and Khamenei himself launched the privatization plan in 2006, gradually handing over the country’s economy to the so-called “private” front companies.
As a result, the so-called “private” companies and contractors enslave Iranian workers, and once they protest the harsh working conditions, repress and fire them, and the regime denies its guilt.
“Today, about 99% of workers have no job security. One of the main reasons for layoffs in society is the spread of fixed-term contracts and the increase in contractors, which are the cause of labor exploitation in the country. In Iran, privatization has led to poverty, slavery, workers’ layoffs, social abnormalities and social justice specialization,” Nasrullah Daryabeigi, executive secretary of the Mazandaran Workers’ House, told the semi-official ILNA news agency on May 26. 2021
The deplorable conditions of Iranian workers
Iranian workers and people from all walks of life are confronted with runaway inflation, skyrocketing prices, a falling currency, rising unemployment, crackdowns on workers and the ban on independent syndicates.
Workers played a key role in Iran’s 1979 anti-monarchy revolution. The famous oil workers’ strike of 1978-79 brought Shah’s regime to its knees. They had high hopes after the Shah’s fall, but the new ruling theocracy silenced their cries for equality and freedom.
The plight of Iranian workers has steadily deteriorated over the past four decades, as the regime has squandered the national wealth on terrorism and its secretive nuclear weapons program, and what remains of the country’s resources have been looted by regime officials.
Iran’s Labor Ministry’s new report indicates that over a third of Iran’s population lives in “absolute poverty”.
“Economists say the absolute poverty line in Iran could rise to 120 million riyals. The Director General of the Office of Economic Studies of the Parliamentary Research Center stated: The poverty rate in our country has reached about 35%. In other words, 35% of people live below the poverty line,” according to the state Etemad reported online in January 2022.
After a month of bragging about helping workers, Ebrahim Raisi’s government has only increased workers’ wages by 10% to less than 50 million riyals. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that all workers live below the poverty line when they receive their wages!
The war in Ukraine and the plight of Iranian workers
The world welcomed International Workers’ Day amid escalating tensions in Ukraine. The war of occupation in Ukraine sent an economic shock wave across the world.
Ukraine is the world’s largest producer of sunflower oil, accounting for more than half of the product’s global exports. The country, along with Russia, is also responsible for over a third (36%) of global wheat exports. The war in Ukraine is indeed having an impact on the food supply in importing countries like Iran.
Tehran welcomed the war in Ukraine to gain Moscow’s support in ongoing but unsuccessful nuclear talks with world powers to sell its oil at a higher price.
Adding to the aftermath of the war, prices for bread and pasta are skyrocketing as Raisi abolished the preferential exchange rate created to allow grain to be imported at a lower price, making these products scarce.
There have been protests in Iran and many warnings from regime officials that there would soon be another uprising as bread is the staple of workers’ tables.
The so-called “preferential rate,” also known as the official exchange rate of 42,000 riyals to the dollar, was introduced in 2016 and allocated to regime insiders who sold key consumer goods at higher prices. However, the current prices are much higher.