Sugarcane workers in southwestern Iran took strike action for five days in a row to demand three months of their unpaid wages and benefits. The Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company workers gathered outside the company building in the southwestern city of Shush. The workers are demanding three months of unpaid wages, better work conditions, the return of laid-off workers, health insurance, and the return of the company to the public sector.
Workers say they have not received their salaries since late March. The Company CEO, Hussain Ameeli denied that workers had not received three months of their wages in an interview with Sharq daily, a state-run newspaper. However, he did say that their wages were paid with a one-month delay and that they had not received their wages for the Persian month of Farvardin (March 20- April 19).
An independent representative of the Haft Tappeh workers said that the workers would continue their protests until their demands were met.
The unidentified representative who spoke to Emtedadnet Telegram Channel said that workers had trouble providing their basic needs including food. In videos posted on social media platforms, workers said they had to “borrow” bread from bakeries.
According to Emtedadnet, the sugarcane workers initially took strike action on Sunday, June 14 inside the factory. Since they were completely ignored, around 5,000 workers took their strike outside the administrative building of the company from Monday until Friday.
The former CEO of the company, Omid Assadbeigi is currently being tried for financial corruption. During the trial, Assadbeigi said he had bribed the current governor of Khuzestan by giving his wife $200,000.
Khuzestan’s Governor, Gholamreza Shariati has denied the bribe.
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.
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.