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How is the fate of Iran’s HEPCO workers decided?

Workers of the HEPCO company in Arak, western Iran
Workers of the HEPCO company in Arak, western Iran

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, August 28, 2019–If you visited HEPCO’s vast factory complex today and wanted to enter its large dining area that was built to feed eight thousand workers, you would encounter closed doors.

The Heavy Equipment Production Company (HEPCO) is an Iranian corporation that manufactures construction equipment, agricultural machinery, railroad cars, trucks and equipment for oil, gas, energy, metal and mining industries. The company is based in Arak, the capital of Markazi Province in the center-west area of Iran.

HEPCO, once the largest heavy equipment manufacturer in the Middle East, currently employs no more than 700 workers who are also on the brink of unemployment as their employer is headed for full bankruptcy.

HEPCO was established and registered in 1972, with the objective of assembling and the production of heavy equipment. HEPCO started its operation in 1975 in its premises in Arak covering one million square meters of land and 40,000 square meters of production hall in collaboration with Navistar International, Dynapac, Poclain, Sakai Heavy Industries and Lokomo.

However, the so-called “privatization” of state-owned companies in Iran didn’t spare HEPCO.

The privatization process in Iran started in 2006, when Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the government to pave the way for selling 80 percent of large state-owned companies to the private sector.

Before Khamenei’s intervention, according to Article 44 of Iran’s Constitution, the state had a monopoly over owning and managing large Iranian companies such as insurance, large mines, airlines, telecommunications, etc.

Khamenei’s new interpretation of Article 44, first proposed and passed by the Expediency Discernment Council, set the stage for over a decade of handing out publicly owned property to the well-connected and the ruling elite for ridiculous prices, taking the corrupt and nepotistic style of the ruling thugs in Tehran to the next level.

This phenomenon is so well-known and wide-spread in Iran that even a new word has been coined for it. “Privental,” a literal translation of the combination of the Persian equivalent for “private” and “governmental”, is the nickname that people have given to these “privatized” companies.

What happens under the pretext of privatization is that the government sells these previously public companies to the elite who don’t have any clue about manufacturing and they start to profiteer in a variety of ways, running the company bankrupt.

Arak’s HEPCO was sold in 2007 to the “private” sector and since then the company has on several occasions reached the brink of complete bankruptcy. And every time the workers take to the streets to demand their due salaries, which haven’t been paid for months, the government makes promises and fulfills some of their requests, fearing the spread of demonstrations.

According to the company’s workers, during the past five months they have only received one paycheck equal to only one month of their past five months’ work. Most of them are on unpaid obligatory leave and they gravely fear for their jobs.

HEPCO, the largest heavy equipment manufacturer in the Middle East with a history of over four decades, is just another example of how the Iranian regime is driving the country’s economy to the abyss of total collapse.

Just imagine what has already happened to much smaller and less known companies over the past 14 years.