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Iran: petroleum workers win back pay after strike action

13 December, 2016Workers at the Bushehr Petrochemical Complex won unpaid wages after taking strike action last week.

Workers went on strike on Monday 5 December after not receiving wages since June. On Saturday, they were paid for the months of July, August and September, and returned to work. However, the dispute is ongoing. Administrative and support staff – who were not part of the original strike action – have not been paid, and have subsequently gone on strike.

The Bushehr complex is a subsidiary of the Iranian state-owned National Petrochemical Company, situated in a special economic zone built outside the port city of Asalouyeh to exploit the South Pars gas field.
The company does not recognize unions, and the workers took wildcat action. However, they were supported by IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran (UMMI).
Workers in the sector are employed through recruitment agencies on contracts that guarantee minimal rights. No salary is agreed, and they are told they will need to work a trial period of one month before their wage is determined and paid. The oil companies pay the agencies, who regularly fail to pass on the salaries for months. Workers are afraid they will lose their jobs if they complain.
Shifts are ten hours long in very hot and difficult conditions, and workers live in shared accommodation, with up to ten people sharing a prefabricated building of 24 square metres.
Vartan Khorramdin, reporting on the strike for UMMI, said:

“What workers want to know is this: where does all the money from the oil and gas in South Pars and Asalouyeh go? Why do we get nothing? Do government officials not understand how to use our economic resources to benefit our country and its people?
“We, the workers, want to grow ourselves, our families and our society. We will not look kindly on anyone who reaches into our pockets, and steals food from our tables.”

Bushehr province, in the south of Iran, is home to the port city of Asalouyeh. A special economic zone has been constructed around the city for the National Petrochemical Company, attracting significant foreign investment.
The IndustriALL Middle East and North Africa oil and gas network, meeting today in Istanbul, sent a statement of solidarity, saying:

“We stand with the workers at Bushehr. The oil and gas sector generates significant income for Iran, and yet workers face terrible conditions and unpaid wages. Strong unions will help the people of Iran to benefit from their natural resources.”

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“This dispute shows why it is vital that Iran develop a free and independent trade union movement. After the nuclear deal, the country is attracting record levels of foreign investment, which means global corporations stand to profit from the exploitation of Iran’s workers.
“We will support our affiliate and the workers in Iran to build strong unions to defend their rights.”

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches sent a letter to UMMI president Maziyar Gilaninejhad, expressing solidarity for the struggle.