The ninth bimonthly Labor Rights Newsletter of Zamaneh Media has been published in both Persian and English. This issue covers labor news and workers’ issues in the approximate range of October and November 2019.
The focus of this bi-monthly report is the gasoline protests in Iran that started on 14 Nov 2019, contractual violations and lack of job security, workplace safety and job-related causalities, layoffs and dismissals, factories shutting down, unpaid wage, continuation of workers protest and strikes and issues of child labors and Kulbars..
The sudden increase of gasoline prices affecting the livelihoods of low-income Iranians and the working class shocked the nation and sparked widespread protests across Iran. Subsidized gasoline in Iran is a standard commodity that an increase in its value affects official and actual inflation rates and increases the costs of living for the working class and low-income Iranians, making their lives harder. Especially now in the second half of the Iranian fiscal year in which the gap between wages and the costs of living has significantly increased for working-class families.
The Iran Statistical Center announced the inflation rate of mid-September to mid-October on 23 Oct at 42 percent. Compared to the same period in the previous month (mid-August to mid-September) there is a seven percent decrease in the inflation rate. However, the rate of inflation associated with essential goods like food is still increasing in this period.
On 9 Nov 2019, as speculations about the minimum wage for the next Iranian fiscal year (1399) were being published, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht – the spokesperson for the Plan and Budget Organization (PBO) of Iran – announced that they intend to increase the national minimum wage by 15% in March 2020.
Meanwhile, one representative of the Association of Islamic Labor Councils who has a seat at the Supreme Labor Council (SLC) which is responsible for calculating the national minimum wage annually announced on 7 Oct 2019 that the cost for a living basket of an average family in Iran has reached to 8 million tomans (≈667 USD).
Meanwhile, workers’ protests continue in Iran mostly due to the closing of factories and mass layoff or for unpaid and past-due wages. The government’s reaction to the ongoing protests in Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Complex in Khuzestan and the Azarab factory in Arak has been violent suppression and crackdown.
Production units are shutting down or are about to shut down, often stating the economic consequences of sanctions as the reason for halting or reducing production. The number of laid-off or fired workers is increasing despite the government announcing a decrease in the number of unemployed by the end of summer 2019.
Iran’s unemployment rate has fallen by 1.8 percent according to government statistics from summer 2018 to summer 2019. However this decrease in the unemployment rate does not correlate with the high inflation rate and economic growth rates. The rate of unemployment for Iranians with university degrees, however, has increased between summers 2018 to 2019 by 4.3%. By the end of summer 2019, 43.8% of Iranians with university education did not have jobs.
The judiciary finally agreed to release Esmail Bakhshi on bail. Esmail Bakhshi a representative of the workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Complex in Southeastern Iran has been sentenced to 14 years of prison time and 74 lashes on 7 Sept 2019. Bakhshi is now awaiting his appeal. While the Judiciary officials agreed to the conditional release f some labor rights prisoners, including Sepideh Gholian and the editorial team of Gaam Magazine, Bakhshi’s bail was delayed. Spideh Gholian who was temporarily released on bail was also re-arrested on 17 Nov 2019 during the protests against the rise in gasoline prices. Neda Naji, a labor prisoner is still being held in prison.
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