Denial of Workers Rights a Pillar of Government’s Policy of Repression

(9 November 2009)  Four leaders of the Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company (Syndikaa e Kargaran e Karkhaneh Neyshekar), including Fereydoun Nikoufard, Jalil Ahmadi, Ghorban Alipour and Mohammad Haydari have been summoned by intelligence officials and arrested to begin serving prison terms, and are being held in Dezful prison, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. Ali Nejati, the president of the Syndicate, is expecting to be arrested at any time.

“These sentences and arrests are emblematic of the Islamic Republic’s denial of basic workers rights in violation of Iran’s obligations as a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO),” said Hadi Ghaemi, a spokesperson for the Campaign.

“The denial of worker’s rights is a pillar of the government’s policy of repression,” he said.

The Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company was established in 2008 in Khuzestan province, and has nearly 5000 members. The union has been recognized internationally by the International Union of Food Workers.

The Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company has been one of the largest agricultural complexes in Iran, producing enough sugar for domestic consumption. In recent years though, its workers were threatened with the loss of their jobs as the company faced privatization and bankruptcy, reportedly as a result of political decisions that exposed the company to competition from imports.

On 24 October 2009, the Syndicate appealed to the ILO for help regarding the persecution of their union and violations of ILO conventions 87 and 98. They detailed their peaceful efforts to protest their unpaid wages, which was met with no positive responses, and their subsequent formation in October 2008 of the Syndicate, which they hold to be a legal entity based on Iran’s obligations as a member of the ILO. The letter protests the fining and sentencing of the leaders of the union and challenges the ILO to take action in their defense.

“Neither the workers and people of Iran, nor the international community, can accept that workers in Iran have no right to organize independent labor unions, which is a basic human right. Such persecutions can only increase social unrest in Iran and the isolation of the Islamic Republic from the international community,” Ghaemi said.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reminds that Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Maddadi, labor leaders from Tehran Bus Company Union, as well as Farzad Kamangar, Hashem Khastar, Rasoul Bodaghi and Jafar Ebrahimi from the teacher’s trade unions remain in jail simply for their trade union organizing work, which is protected by international human rights law.

The Campaign calls the authorities to drop all charges against the trade unionists and release them along with all the detainees who were arrested simply for exercising their rights to free expression and free assembly.