New Year Begins with Fresh Layoffs, Protests
In recent years, the advent of the Persian New Year in late March which halts production for millions of workers across the country has provided management an opening to rationalize labor force and lay off their workers. This year has been no exception. With the commencement of the new year holidays, news of several massive layoffs have surfaced. According to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), “with nearing of Nowruz Spring holidays, the anxieties of contracting workers is increasing on top of worries over steep price rises as the specter of job losses hangs above their heads.” According to Alireza Mahjoub, a parlaimentary deputy and the head of the Workers House, “based on official reports, more than 1200 production facilities (large, medium-sized, and small) have been closed down during the course of last year and therefore, up to 80,000 workers lost their jobs during that period.” Labor activist Faramarz Tofighi, told ILNA that “up to 30% of the workers in production facilities have are under the threat of losing their jobs since the start of the Iranian New Year.” Tofighi attributes this phenomenon to the effects of international sanctions, the economic rationalization plan, and the axing of subsidies to production units. The following is a sampling of recent layoffs hitting the country:
On April 4, around 500 of the 950 laid-off workers at Shahab Khodro assembled by the presidential office. A representative of 5 set out for the Labor Ministry to meet with the officials there. The assembly in the streets around the presidential buildings caused street closures and heavy traffic.
Workers with seniorities ranging from 8 to 22 years in day and contract work at the plant were prevented by the management to enter the work compounds in the first day of the new year. The workers were told that the plant was closed and had filed for bankruptcy. In all, 650 workers including security personnel were laid off. New security officers were quickly hired to prevent fraternalization with the laid-off workers. In addition, 300 of the full time workers have also been forced to take early retirement. About 350 of the workers are day laborers and the other 300 contract workers which need to renew their contracts every six months.
Shahab Khodro which was established in 1963 is currently owned by Razavi Holy Endowment. It manufactures city buses, fire trucks, garbage disposal trucks, and gas and water tankers. The company employs around 900 full time permanent-contract employee and a much larger contracting labor force.
According to the workers talking to Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), the skirmishes with the management last year was over the taking away of overtime and lunch breaks. “Following that skirmish, the management left the compound for a while and after it returned, declined to renew contracts citing the termination of the contracts,” one worker said.
The workers at West Steel Company producing iron ingots report that all the200 workers at the factory have been fired. The workers had been hired last June following written and oral tests and providing technical and educational certificates. They had also undergone safety and technical training by a contracting company.
Last November, shortage of coke and other raw materials led to the shutting down of the plant and the West Steel Company cancelled its contracts unilaterally. Subsequently new contracts were signed excluding many workers rights. After the new year recess, none of the employee save for three engineers were allowed access to the plant. The workers took their protests to the Hamedan governor’s office. The workers were told that their contracts had been expired and the company had the right not to renew their contracts and that there was nothing that could be done. The plant is located in the western province of Hamedan.
On April 3, about 200 Mazandaran textile workers staged a protest gathering by the governor’s office. These workers had not been paid for 20 months. They closed down the main street for a few minutes. On March 18, the same workers had held a similar rally before the governor promised o pay them the very next day. By the accounts of a protesting worker talking to Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), “The next day was a holiday day so we all went to the bank on March 24, but there was still no news on any payments.” He continued: “They told us the textile factory was closed until April 1 and we have waited until today. We are forced to assemble by the governor’s office once again.” He said he and his friends had waited for six months. “We worked for free and did not receive a single penny. It is about 20 months since we received any wages.”
The same day, the workers entered the office compounds and met with the governor. The governor obliquely threatened to sell off the factory properties and pay off the workers wages if they persisted. He also asked them to wait until late April. The workers have vowed to stage another gathering if their demands were not met.
150 Isfahan Navid Magnesium plant lost their jobs following their factory’s closure. The factory management blamed energy costs and for its inability to continue production. The government’s refusal to pay the promised energy subsidies is cited as the prime cause of the troubles. Of the laid-off workers, 80 are full-time and 70 are contracted.
210 workers at Gil Bricks Factory in Ahvaz have lost their jobs following the Spring recess due to factory closure.
Bahram Pakzad, the secretary of Poultry Trade Association, talking with Fars News Agency reported of the closure of 30% of poultry units in the country with other units being threatened with closures as well.
The layoffs are not limited to the larger production facilities. Reports from Kurdistan indicate that several workers in Sanandaj Tile factory and as many in Mahabad Industries and Plantation have lost their jobs.
According to the Metal and Electrical Trade Association, 20 workers with Kermanshah West Shabab have been expelled following their refusal to increase the work hours from 8 to 12 hours. The workers were told that they may not receive any payments for the extra four hours of work. Shabab is now owned by the Revoultionary Guards Corps. It employs about 150 workers. The workers are hired as temporary workers through a sub-contractor.