Security Forces Illegally Arrest Striking Workers
In an action labor leaders are calling “illegal,” security forces have arrested over 20 workers of the Chadormalu Mine in the central province of Yazd, including the head and the secretary of the labor union, who stopped work as part of a contract negotiation and labor dispute. Prominent labor unionist Mansour Osanloo told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, “According to the Iranian Labor Law, when workers reach a dispute with their employers because of their pay or other guild demands, they have a right to stop work. Therefore they didn’t do anything illegal to warrant the arrests.”
For the past several months, more than 3,000 workers have demanded a pay increase that is compatible with the inflation rate, as well as their overtime pay which had been unpaid for four months. Bahram Hassaninejad, the secretary of the workers’ labor union, was dismissed from his job during earlier protests over this issue in November 2013. The protest grew wider after Hassaninejad’s dismissal, and his return to work became another demand in addition to the pay increase and back pay.
“During the past several months, the workers at this mine had requested to have pay raises that would make their pay compatible with inflation and the very high rise in the prices of staples, and to get their overtime pay, which had been postponed for four months. The officials had promised to address these issues, but they eventually fired the the secretary of the workers’ labor union and arrested 20 workers a few days later,” Mansour Osanloo told the Campaign.
On January 26, the Ardakan Labor Office Determination Committee confirmed Hassaninejad’s dismissal orders, sparking new protests among the mine workers. Thousands of the mine workers stopped their work on January 28 in protest of the dismissal, as well as in continuation of the pay demands. On January 29, security forces summoned and arrested 20 workers who the Governor implied had been instrumental in launching the initial protests. The remaining workers continued their sit-in, and on January 30, “Four additional workers from among those who were holding a sit-in at the factory site, by the names of Ramin Heydarjan, Behzad Talebpour, Mahmoud Dehghan, and Ahmad Nasirpour, were also arrested,” a representative of the workers told Iran’s Labor New Agency, ILNA.
“Today, Friday, January 31, 2014, we learned that during the labor protest and strike at Chadormalu Mine, Head of the Labor Union Mr. Hossein Jenaee and Secretary of the Union Mr. Bahram Hassaninejad have been arrested by Ardakan town security organizations. According to the workers, until their legal demands are met and the arrested workers are released, they are not willing to go back to work. We hope the officials hear the voices of oppressed workers and review their demands,” a blog entry on the Chadormalu Workers Union (Toos Asphalt Company) website said today.
On Thursday, January 30, the Governor of Ardakan, Ahmad Kamali, criticized the labor protests at the Chadormalu Mine and confirmed the arrests of the 20 workers on Wednesday, January 29, after they were summoned to the Security Police of Mobarakeh town. The Governor stated the reason for the summonses and arrests was “a lawsuit” by the Chadormalu Mine employer.
Governor Kamali told ILNA that such protests are inappropriate, and that “the Chadormalu Mine workers get paid more than many officials.” But Mansour Osanloo told the Campaign that the Governor of Ardakan is not telling the truth. “The Chadormalu mine workers make between $205 and $240 [monthly], whereas the authorities have previously stated workers should get paid between $512 and $682. The workers of this mine demanded a pay increase that was compatible with the inflation rate in Iran. Additionally, they have not been paid their hardship and other benefits for the past four months.”
Asked about the reasons for the arrest of the 20 workers, Mansour Osanloo said, “These were individuals who had the most impact on the organization of the protest action of the 3,000 Chadormalu workers. These were individuals who were trusted by their co-workers, and other workers respected what they said. They were arrested to prevent future labor protests.”
According to ILNA, the Chadormalu workers had held a protest gathering on November 27, 2013, when 800 workers protested “unfair pay,” and the initial dismissal of their union secretary Bahram Hassaninejad. The protesting workers said that Hassaninejad’s dismissal had taken place against Articles 25 and 27 of the Iranian Labor Law. The workers eventually ended their protest 12 days later on December 9, 2013, after Labor Ministry officials in Ardakan promised to review and realize their demands.
But after the Ardakan Labor Office Determination Committee confirmed Hassaninejad’s dismissal orders on January 26, 2014, a new round of labor protests began. Regarding Hassaninejad’s confirmed dismissal, the Ardakan Governor told ILNA, “He can take action through higher organizations such as the Yazd Province Labor Office or the Labor Ministry, but stopping production in a 3,000-worker establishment for his dismissal is not acceptable.”