In the history of two dictatorships – the Shah and the Mullahs – there has never been as hard a situation for the Iranian workers as right now.
One day before International Workers’ Day, it’s important to examine the position of Iranian workers, who are currently battling two evils; the coronavirus and the mullahs’.
While the virus rages on in Iran, infecting more people and causing more deaths, President Hassan Rouhani sent people back to work in a desperate attempt to restart the sinking economy and prevent an uprising of the starving people. After all, the regime was severely rocked by protests over the economy in November 2019 and January 2018. The mullahs’ would not survive another one.
The workers are put in an impossible situation by the mullahs. On the one hand, if they stay home and quarantine, they cannot feed themselves or their families. If they go to work, they risking catching the coronavirus and getting sick themselves or infecting others.
Even the state-run Iran newspaper admits that over 96% of workers are on temporary contracts and that roughly 3 million unofficial workers work without insurance and certificate. In fact, workers actually have to sign agreements that give employers the right to fire them at will, which is designed to prevent them from protesting or striking.
Workers had many problems before the coronavirus came to Iran, but their situation has become much worse now, with at least 600,000 more made unemployed between mid-March and mid-April. Even those still employed have seen the cost of living rise out of sync with their wages, even though the government is obligated by article 41 of the Labor Law to base an increase in the minimum wage on the inflation rate set by the Central Bank (currently 41%).
The current minimum wage is 80% less than the poverty line in Iran, which means that many of those paid above minimum wage are still in poverty. How can that be right? Essentially, the Iranian workers are now slaves. They have no job security, no right to demand better treatment, no health and safety protocols, and not enough money to feed their families. If they complain, they are fired, arrested, tortured, or even executed. Now, the government is forcing them to choose their own death; starvation or coronavirus.