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Strike action hits southern Iranian petrochemical plant

HUNDREDS of workers at a major petrochemical factory in southern Iran continued a walkout in a long-running dispute over conditions, as anti-government protests continued today.

Pressure is mounting on the government over its handling of the deepening economic crisis and its violent suppression of nationwide demonstrations.

The Free Trade Union of Iranian Workers says that the strike started last week at the Bandar Imam Khomeini Petrochemical Complex in Khuzestan province.

Workers have issued a number of demands including the removal of subcontracting HR companies, the signing of direct contracts with workers, payment of overdue wages and reinstating agreed bonuses.

They want the company to implement an agreement reached in April 2011 after 1,500 workers took strike action for 11 days. It ended after management agreed to dismantle the subcontracting companies and negotiate collective agreements.

The practice of subcontracting has become rife in Iran, including in the oil industry. Many of the subcontractors are three or four times removed from the company and at each level of subcontracting, the contractor takes a 10-15 per cent cut from the salary of each worker.

At the end of this chain of exploitation, workers receive — if at all — less than 50 per cent of their already meagre wages. In addition, workers are left with no legal protection or recourse to demand the respect and enforcement of their core labour rights.

Workers have taken similar action at other industrial plants including the strategically important Esfahan Steel Company, where bosses ceded to their demands.

Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights assistant general secretary Jamshid Ahmadi told the Morning Star that Iranian authorities should fulfil their obligations under ILO conventions.

“They can’t condemn workers to hunger and poverty at a time when inflation is out of control and workers’ pay is absolutely below what is needed for the workers and their families to survive.

“In our view, workers’ rights are human rights.”

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