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Iranian oil workers protest unpaid wages

23 January, 2020On 21 January, hundreds of workers at the Bandar Imam Khomeini petrochemical complex in Iran, launched a protest which lasted for several days over precarious work conditions, the non-payment of wages, reduction of bonuses, and the end of overtime pay. 

During the protest, workers asked management for assistance and solidarity, shouting “modiriat hemayat, hemayat” ("management, support us, support us").

An excessive use of contract labour creates problems for the workers on several levels. According to the workers, the Khomeini petrochemical complex management contracts an outside human resource company, which in its turn subcontracts workers through other contractors. Depending on the scope of need, several different contractors end up supplying workers at a given time, in a practice common in Iran’s petrochemical sector.

The petrochemical complex has no direct contract relationship with workers, and therefore no financial obligations towards them. Thus, when a contract with the HR company expires, workers are sacked and immediately barred from the site. Often the contractor who has employed the worker disappears without paying due wages. The many levels of employment make it difficult for the workers to claim their wages, as there is little or no protection under existing national legislation.

In addition, the contractor takes a 10-15 per cent cut of the worker’s salary; by the time it is in the worker’s hand less than 50 per cent of the original salary remains. 

In a bid to resolve and improve workers’ conditions at Imam Khomeini petrochemical complex, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Valter Sanches addressed a letter to the President of Iran, urging the Iranian government "to act without delay to ensure that the Imam Khomeini Petrochemical Complex in Mahshahr stop subcontracting workers and instead employ them directly and guarantee decent working conditions in the plant.

The Bandar Imam Khomeini petrochemical complex is Iran’s largest supplier of petrochemicals for export, generating millions of tons of petroleum-based products every year.