Tehran Transit Unionists under Pressure
Tehran and Municipality Bus Workers Labor Syndicate is one of the few independent labor unions formed and operating in Iran. The labor activists formed the union in 2005 despite the will of the authorities. Since then the union has come under numerous pressures including the arrest of 1200 of the unionists in a single night in 2006. Mansour Osaloo, the legendry leader of the union, has been serving a five year term in Karaj Gohar Dasht prison for his union activities. Ibrahim Maddadi, his deputy, is also serving a prison term.
Following the 2005 strike by the syndicate workers, several of the labor unionists were suspended from their job positions. Many were denied their wages and benefits. Of the suspended, several have been reinstated gradually. Some are still denied their reinstatements and wages despite the court orders. Human Rights and Democracy Advocates in Iran have provided some information on the cases of the suspended unionists.
Atta Babakhani, the syndicate inspector, is one of the unionists denied his benefits. Last month, the administrative justice court voted him back to his job and ordered his employers to reinstate him back to his previous position and pay his due back pays and benefits. On his first day of return, Babakhani was prevented by the Vahed security to assume his position because of his union activities. He was given an option of a buyout or continued suspension. Babakhani refused the buyout and insisted on his returning to work according to the court order. Vahed security is refusing Babakhani’s return. Atta Babakhani has a record of 18 years service at Vahed. Other labor activists denied back their jobs are Mansour Hayatgheibi, Hadi Kaviri, and Davoud Norouzi. Vahed security is a branch of the intelligence ministry located in the central offices of the Vahed in Resalat square in Tehran.
Nasser Moharramzadeh, another Vahed unionist with 11 years of service with Vahed, was called in by the disciplinary committee and suspended subsequently from his job on April 13. The call-in was not in writing and this in addition to the lack of clarity on the purpose of the call-in led to Moharramzadeh refusing to report. Protesting the suspension, the unionist was offered a leave of absence without pay in the duration of the investigation into his protest. Nasser Moharramzadeh was suspended for a year following the 2005 bus workers strike and denied wages and benefits during the period. He was later reinstated following his petition. Following his return, he was assigned a different post far from his residence. The disciplinary committee has suspended several of the workers including Ms. Farahnaz Shiri, the first female bus driver, and Mr. Abdollah Hosseini.
Several of the suspended unionists started getting back to work since December 2007. Many, however, have been denied their wages and some even have been threatened with terminations. Those who have not been receiving their wages are Gholamreza Gholamhosseini, Morteza Komsary, Hassan Saeedi, Habib Rezapour, Abdollah Hosseini, Homayoun Jabery, Vahhab Mohammadi, and Aliakbar Nazari. It is reported that a Revolutionary Guard commander by the name of Ardeshir Moghadampour under the pseudonym Hossein Bijani, who is the general manager of Tehran and Municipality Vahed Bus company is the one refusing workers their wages. The real name of that person was revealed following the workers complaints in the government employees administrative court.
In solidarity with the suspended unionist Abdollah Hosseini, on April 29, the drivers of the BRT express buses drove with their head lights on from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Tehran. Ad hoc protests have also been reported on May 16 in various parts of Tehran to the recent fare hikes of more than 250 percent. This has led to the extra ordinary presence of the security forces and Vahed security agents on the bus platforms.