The workers' rights movement in Iran has a long and complex history. From the early days of the oil industry in the 1940s to the present day, workers in Iran have struggled to secure fair wages, safe working conditions, and the right to organize independent trade unions.
One of the earliest significant events in the labour rights movement in Iran was the 1946 labour strikes in the oil-rich city of Abadan. Poor working conditions and low wages sparked these strikes, and they set the stage for a wave of labour unrest that would continue for decades to come. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Tudeh (Communist) Party of Iran emerged as a significant force in the labour movement. The party actively supported workers' rights and organized many labour strikes, especially among the oil workers. However, the Tudeh party faced repression from the state, and many of its members were arrested and tortured. In 1951, the Confederation of Iranian Workers' Syndicates was formed to unite and mobilize workers across industries. The Confederation became a leading voice for workers' rights, but it too faced repression from the state. Many leaders were arrested and tortured, and the organization was eventually banned.
The Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979 brought a new government to power, significantly changing workers' rights and benefits. However, the Iran-Iraq war in 1980-1988 significantly impacted labour rights in Iran as the government mobilized many workers, particularly the youth, for military service, which resulted in many worker deaths and trauma.
In the 1990s and 2000s, there were widespread labour protests and strikes as workers demanded better pay, working conditions, and the right to organize independent trade unions. However, the government systematically repressed labour rights and civil society activists from 2005 to the present day, leading to increased repression and violence against labour activists.
More recently, workers in Iran have faced even greater challenges due to the economic sanctions imposed on the country and the ongoing economic crisis. This has led to widespread worker strikes and protests demanding unpaid wages, the right to form independent trade unions and the release of jailed workers. Despite the many challenges faced by the labour rights movement in Iran, workers have continued fighting for their rights and a more just and equitable society.
Overall, the labour rights movement in Iran has been a long and challenging struggle, marked by repression and violence from the state and the determination and resilience of workers who have continued to fight for their rights. The movement has faced many challenges and setbacks but has also made significant gains and contributed to Iran's broader struggle for social and economic justice.
Some significant events in the labour rights movement in Iran include:
- Poor working conditions and low wages sparked the 1946 labour strikes in oil-rich Abadan.
- The founding of the Tudeh (Communist) Party of Iran in 1941, which actively supported workers' rights and organized many labour strikes.
- The formation of the Confederation of Iranian Workers' Syndicates in 1951 sought to unite and mobilize workers across industries.
- The 1978-1979 Iranian Revolution brought a new government to power and significantly changed workers' rights and benefits.
- The Iran-Iraq war in 1980-1988, where the government mobilized many workers, particularly the youth, for military service, led to many worker deaths and trauma.
- The widespread labour protests and strikes during the 1990s and 2000s, as workers demanded better pay, working conditions, and the right to organize independent trade unions.
- The systematic repression of labour rights and civil society activists from 2005 to the present day.
- The widespread worker strikes and protests during 2017-2019 demanded unpaid wages, the right to form independent trade unions and the release of jailed workers.
It's worth noting that workers' rights in general, are still facing big challenges in Iran. More recently, waves of repression, corruption and economic crisis have added more pressure on workers. The history of labour rights issues in Iran includes:
- Forced labour: Despite being prohibited by the Iranian constitution, forced labour is reportedly used in various forms in Iran, including forced mass mobilization, particularly in the context of public works projects.
- Child labour: The Iranian government has been criticized for failing to enforce laws prohibiting child labour effectively. According to a report by the International Labor Organization, child labour is a problem in Iran, particularly in rural areas and the informal sector.
- Discrimination in the workplace: Women and members of certain ethnic and religious minorities face discrimination in the workplace in Iran.
- Poor working conditions: Many workers in Iran, particularly those in the informal sector, are not protected by labour laws and are subject to poor working conditions.
- Repression of labour rights activists: Labor rights activists in Iran face repression and intimidation from the government. This includes harassment, arrest and imprisonment of rights activists and trade unionists and the repression of strikes and protests.
- Lack of independent trade unions: The government tightly controls labour unions in Iran and does not permit the formation of independent unions.
- Non-payment of wages: Many workers in Iran, particularly those in the informal sector, do not receive regular payment of wages and are often not protected by labour laws.
- Shortage of job security: The lack of job security and job protection laws makes workers vulnerable to layoffs and employers' abuse and exploitation.
These issues reflect the complexity of the labour rights situation in Iran, where Government, economic and social factors have an impact and the need for further research on the situation and actions for improvements.
There are several international legal mechanisms through which Iran could be held accountable for violating workers' rights:
- The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues. Iran is a member of the ILO, and the organization has the power to investigate complaints and make recommendations to the government to address labour rights violations.
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) are international treaties Iran has ratified. These treaties include provisions protecting the rights to work and to form and join trade unions.
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has also ratified, includes provisions protecting the rights to work, form and join trade unions, and just and favourable work conditions.
- The UN human rights treaty bodies, such as the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, can also hear complaints about human rights violations in Iran.
- Another option is to file a complaint with the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.
- Another Remedy would be to file a complaint with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) if the violation is related to foreign investment in the country.
It's worth mentioning that these legal mechanisms are often time-consuming and have little practical consequences. The effectiveness of these mechanisms depends on the political will of the countries in question to implement their recommendations.
There are several ways to build international support and solidarity to support workers' rights in Iran; some options are:
- Network building and coalition-building: This can involve connecting with other organizations and individuals working on labour rights and human rights in Iran, as well as building alliances with organizations working on related issues such as economic justice, civil liberties, and political democracy.
- Raise awareness and education: This can include organizing and participating in events, talks, and seminars, as well as creating and distributing educational materials such as pamphlets, flyers, and videos.
- Social media and digital campaigning: Utilizing social media platforms to raise awareness, disseminate information and mobilize supporters.
- Advocacy and lobbying: This can involve meeting with government officials, representatives of international organizations and other decision-makers to present the case for workers' rights in Iran and to urge them to take action.
- Protests and direct actions: This can include organizing or participating in peaceful protests, marches, and other forms of direct action to draw attention to the issue and exert pressure on decision-makers.
- Use of legal remedies: It could also be possible to use legal remedies to hold individual officials and organizations accountable for their involvement in human rights abuses.
- Supporting workers' rights organizations and independent trade unions within Iran through funding or other forms of assistance.
It is important to note that the success of these options will depend on the political and economic context of the country and the international situation. it will be essential to be strategic, adaptable, and willing to cooperate with other groups and organizations to maximize the impact of these campaigns.