Reporting by PMOI/MEK
Iran September 28, 2019—On Friday, the workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Mill continued their strike in support of their fired coworkers despite the heavy presence of the Iranian regime’s security forces. Located in Khuzestan, Haft Tapeh is Iran’s largest producer of sugar.
The workers of Haft Tapeh started their strike after the company’s managers refrained from renewing the contract of 20 workers at the factory. The protesting workers also demand the payment of their delayed wages. Since Monday, when the strikes began, the Iranian regime has dispatched security forces to cause fear and prevent the strikes and protests from expanding. But the workers continue to stand their ground.
On Friday, the protesters held banners that called on all workers to unite. Last year, the workers of Haft Tapeh went on strike for several weeks in protest to poor working conditions and unpaid salaries. Their movement garnered support from other labor communities in Iran as well as worker unions across the world.
At the end of their rally, one of the workers who spoke to the gathered crowd said, “From the [privatization] of Haft Tapeh to the dismissal of our coworkers, all of it was illegal. No one goes back to work until all 20 [fired workers] return to their jobs. The traitor state-run TV came here and took full footage of the harvest and aired reports. But now that the workers are facing problems, it doesn’t show up. This strike continues. I dare say, we will lay down our lives for it if necessary.”
Haft Tapeh is one of several large government-owned companies that have been sold to private owners under the order of Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Iranian regime. Privatization, which often involves selling these companies to persons with close ties to regime officials, always results in the decline of production at the company in question and deteriorating working conditions for its workers. Haft Tapeh and HEPCO, Iran’s largest industrial equipment manufacturer, are two stark examples of how privatization has destroyed Iran’s industries.
In most privatized Iranian companies, workers are faced with delayed payment of their salaries, which has become a common cause of labor protests across Iran.
Also, the government releases its support for the workers as soon as the factory becomes privatized, which eventually leads to the total or quasi shutdown of the company.
So far, the regime has failed to take any concrete action in response to the demands of the workers. During last year’s protests, security forces cracked down on the workers of Haft Tapeh and raided their homes, arresting and jailing several workers. Some of the protesters were tortured during their time in jail.
The Iranian regime has also resorted to giving heavy prison and corporal punishment sentences to the protesting workers of Haft Tapeh to dissuade them from continuing their strikes and demonstrations. But as the workers of Haft Tapeh and other labor communities in Iran have learned through experience, while this regime stands, resistance and protest is the only way forward.