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Iranian auto workers strike against non-payment of wages

11 February, 2021Workers at an Iran Khodro Company auto factory in Tabriz have taken wildcat strike action in protest at the non-payment of wages.

The Iran Khodro Company is the principal automaker in Iran, manufacturing vehicles, including Peugeot, Renault and Suzuki cars under license, and trucks, minibuses and buses.

There have been problems at the company, and accusations of corruption, for some time, as well as reports from September and October last year of the company failing to pay wages and workers’ contributions to social security.

This has resulted in some workers reaching retirement age but having to keep working, because the social security system refuses to pay their pensions until the contribution shortfall is made up.

Iran Khodro has six production sites in Iran, with the Tabriz factory having a capacity of 120,000 vehicles per year. The multinational auto company, which also has factories in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Senagal, Syria and Venezuela, blames the Covid-19 pandemic for the problems with payment. Workers at Tabriz started wildcat strike action on 30 January. Several workers were reportedly fired as a consequence.

IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate the Union of Metalworkers and Machinists of Iran (UMMI) reports that conditions in industrial plants is catastrophic across Iran as the economic impact of the pandemic is added to the ongoing consequences of US sanctions. Major auto factories and their suppliers are affected, and many companies are failing to pay wages and make social security contributions. This leaves workers unable to receive benefits or receive healthcare.

The Khodro autoworkers are just the latest to rise up against impossible living and working conditions. Protests in the South Pars oil and gas fields have been ongoing since August last year, with a growing number of disputes by workers who want decent conditions and to be employed directly, rather than through labour brokers.

There are also protests by pensioners across the country due to the low levels of pensions which have left retired workers in poverty after a lifetime of service. The poverty level is currently four times the average pension. Retired members of UMMI are active in organizing the protests.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“The government of Iran has failed in its responsibility to its citizens. It has allowed companies to abuse workers, and left the social security system with a terrible shortfall at the moment it is needed most, during a global pandemic.

“Iranian workers are rising up to defend themselves. They are right to do so, and courageous to stand up against a repressive regime and companies that fail to meet their responsibilities. Iran needs to recognize independent trade unions so that the country’s workers and pensioners can win justice.”