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Happy Birthday Sugar-Cane Workers!

Defying Formidable Obstacles, The Haft Tapeh Union Turns Two Years young

Iran Labor Report extends its warmest greetings to the Haft Tapeh workers on the second anniversary of their union. Below is an announcement made on this occasion by Reza Rakhshan, the union’s leader:

Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Workers Syndicate came into being in November 2008. It is now two years since that day– two bitter sweet years. On the one hand, after much ebb and flow, five members of our board of directors– Fereidoun Nikoufard, Ali Nejati, Jalil Ahmadi, Ghorban Alipour, and Mohammad Heidari– were eventually sentenced by the Dezful Revolutionary Court to jail terms and transferred to prison after being fired from their jobs. Myself, following several prison stints, have been fired from my job over ten months ago. In the follow-ups, our terminations were given the seal of approval by the Sush City Board of Arbitrations and we have had to seek legal redress through the Administrative Court of Justice.

On the other hand, the establishment of the union has been something of an achievement for the other (sugar cane) workers since the authorities have taken a sudden interest in the company’s affairs– after three years of continual neglect– by virtue of the union’s mere existence. The result: the condition of workers and that of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company are in much better shape than before. A firm which faced myriad problems like drastic production cuts– 11 metric tons of sugar production in 2008 compared with 120 metric tons five to six years ago– crumbling equipment, and numerous debt obligations (to insurance, utility firms, etc) is in good enough standing with, so far, no arrears or wage delays on the horizon. On top of this, it is expected that the total sugar production at the plant this year will surpass the 80 metric ton mark which signals a huge improvement. Nevertheless, while we, at the (union) board of directors were severely punished and have lost our bread, the wheels of production at the plant have gone into motion, the workers are back at work, there is food on the table and life goes on. These are no mean achievements.

The sad truth remains though that in the two years our syndicate has been in existence, no other labor syndicate has followed our path. Tehran Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate and our union were the only ones making it. Had there now been 20 or even 10 more syndicates in Iran, we would have been in much better shape. This is a sure sign that the labor movement is not at present terribly potent; while, in my opinion, it was quite feasible (to form other unions). If the Haft Tapeh workers could do it, so could the other workers at other places.

Wishing everyone much success,
Reza Rakhshan,
Head of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Workers Syndicate
November 2, 2010

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