Thursday, August 09, 2007

Today is the international day of action in solidarity with Iran's embattled trade union movement

August 9th has been set as the day of international protests to show support for the independent labor movement in Iran and demand freedom for labor leader Mansour Osanloo and other labor leaders.

Osanloo is the leader of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company in Tehran. He has been arrested three times in the past two years and most recently was abducted by Iranian security in early July. He is being held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison without charge or legal representation. The crime he has committed is to have campaigned for better conditions and wages for bus workers.

Earlier today Iranian security services surrounded Osanloo’s house and detained five members of the bus union who were planning to demonstrate later today.

The show of solidarity today will also support Mahmoud Salehi, co-founder of the Saqez Bakery Workers' Association and the Coordinating Committee to Form Workers' Organisations. He has also been jailed for asserting the right to undertake the legal trade union activities.

Peter Tatchell has this assessment in today’s Guardian:
The Iranian government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a neo-liberal, free market, pro-privatisation, anti-trade union regime. It is the mirror image of George Bush's neo-con USA - only many times worse. Independent unions are banned, workers have few legal rights or protections, and union activists are regularly beaten, arrested, jailed and tortured. Today, Thursday August 9, is the international day of action in solidarity with Iran's embattled trade union movement. Protests will take place in more than 30 countries across the world, including outside the Iranian embassy in London. This day of global action is organised by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), with the backing of many individual unions and of Amnesty International.

President Ahmadinejad won the 2005 election on a promise of defending the poor. He hasn't delivered. Iran's unemployment rate is now 15%, compared to only 11% in 2006. Of young people aged between 15 and 19 years old, a third of those who want a job don't have one, and around 20,000 homeless youths sleep rough on the streets of the major cities. In 2005, lawmaker Mohammad Abbasspour calculated that "90% of the population are living under the poverty line and only 10% of the people have access to social services provided by the government". In the last two years, poverty and deprivation have got worse, despite the country's fabulous oil wealth.

The repression of trade unions is par for the course in Iran. The theocratic dictatorship is proudly pro-business and pro-privatisation. It regards free trade unions as un-Islamic. Under the 1990 labour law, independent trade unions are banned in favour of state-controlled Islamic labour councils - a corporate unionism not dissimilar to the labour laws of Hitler and Mussolini.

… the far-reaching extent of state control over officially-sanctioned worker's organisations and representatives is evident under section 130 of chapter six of the 1990 law. It states that "in order to propagate and disseminate Islamic culture and to defend the achievements of the Islamic Revolution," workers in industrial, agricultural, service and craft establishments may establish Islamic associations whose duties, powers and functions shall be drawn up by the ministry of the interior, the ministry of labour and social affairs and the Islamic propagation organisation, and approved by the council of ministries. In other words, no autonomy and no independence.

As if this was not bad enough, plans have been drafted to amend the 1990 labour law to make it even easier for employers to dismiss workers, including on the grounds that there is a decline in the company's productivity and that the firm needs to restructure or technologically upgrade. This would tip the balance of power in the labour market further in favour of capital; leaving employees weaker and more vulnerable than ever before.

President Ahmadinejad may pose as the great anti-American crusader, but his economic and union policies are not a million miles from the far right of the US Republican Party and the neo-liberal diktats of international financial institutions. Very Islamic, not!

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