Iranian sugarcane workers have held strike action for 41 days in southwestern Iran to demand their wages. The Haft Tappeh Workers Union, representing the striking workers, issued a statement in support of the protest action. The Union is demanding swift action by the government regarding the demands of the striking workers. In the statement, the union said that “we have to rely only on ourselves and our own efforts and nobody else” and asked for workers’ unity.
The Union also asked all workers to take part in the strike action as much as possible.
“The larger presence of workers could force the authorities to take serious action regarding our demands as soon as possible.”
Although a new round of strike action by the workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Industrial Complex started on June 17 with the participation of workers from different parts of the company, neither government officials nor agencies have taken any action to address the workers’ demands.
It has been more than a month now that these workers have stopped working, and every day they gather in the city of Shush to demand their rights.
The Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Industrial Company has more than 5,000 workers, and this strike includes about half of its workforce, who are deprived of their rights. Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Industrial Complex was built about 50 years ago in southern Iran and is considered one of the most important centers of sugarcane and sugar production in Iran.
The most important demands of the workers in this strike are as follows:
– Immediate payment of unpaid wages
– Renewal of their insurance benefits
– Immediate return of the workers who have been fired by the company for protesting
– Immediate arrest of Omid Assadbeigi, one of the primary managers of the company
– Life imprisonment for Assad Beigi and Rostami (the company’s Operation managers)
– Immediate dismissal of the factory’s corrupt managers
– Transforming the factory from the private sector to the public sector
– Returning all the factory’s assets that have been moved around and stolen by the company’s corrupt managers and operators.
Independent labor activists, the Iranian Pensioners’ Council and many internet and twitter activists have supported the sugarcane workers’ strike action.
The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), a global union federation that represents 10 million workers expressed solidarity with Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers last month.
“As always, the IUF stands in full solidarity with the workers and their union and calls on the government to act immediately to ensure full payment of all wages and social security benefits, proper workplace protective measures and full access to health services for all workers and family members,” the IUF wrote in a June 17 report on its website.
Haft Tappeh Sugarcane company timeline
Founded in 1961, the company made a record production of 100,000 tons of white sugar in 2002.
Haft Tappeh suffered a severe recession during the Ahmadinejad administration in 2006 when the regime’s Supreme Leader Khamenei eliminated the tariffs for sugar imports. The sugarcane workers staged protests the following year.
In 2012, the company was reconstructed with refurbished equipment aimed at increasing sugar production.
In January 2016 two young men, Mehrdad Rostami and Omid Assadbeigi who owned Zenus and Ariak Ltd. bought the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane complex at around one tenth of the actual price for 218 billion tomans in an auction.
The 24,000 hectare Haft Tappeh Sugarcane complex went into ruin after it was privatized.
In 2017, workers came out in force to protest the privatization of the company arguing that there were huge amounts of money being embezzled behind the scene.
In 2018, the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane factory CEO Assadbeigi was said to have run off after being charged with currency misconduct. He is currently standing trial.
The workers once again started a strike in November 2018 for 25 days in protest to not receiving four months of their wages and the privatization of the company. The contract for this massive complex has not been made public. It is not clear why the large factory was handed over to two young inexperienced men, who according to workers, did not know the first thing about sugarcane production.