Workers of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory in the southwestern city of Shush started a new round of strike action in September.
The strike action is in protest to the workers’ delayed paychecks and the privatization of the factory. They are also demanding the release of the detained workers in their ongoing strike.
The problems workers are facing goes back to the government’s institutionalized corruption under the guise of privatization, which has become more widespread in Iran’s industries in recent years.
Haft Tappeh sugarcane factory workers have taken strike action in the past four years to demand their rights.
Despite this, their demands were ignored by the factory’s management and many workers were detained and are now serving lengthy prison terms.
The initial strike action, which started in 2015, was in protest to the workers’ seven months of delayed paychecks and the privatization of the factory.
In November 2018, workers, joined by their families, organized a protest march in Shush. The march lasted about 14 days. Other Iranians announced their solidarity with their cause.
On November 5, two workers were arrested. Haft Tappeh Sugarcane workers once again took to the streets and demanded their release. The Iranian regime responded by arresting two more workers and within days, 29 workers were arrested.
In December 2018, Haft Tappeh workers and the workers of the Ahwaz steel factory joined forces and organized marches in the southwestern cities of Shush and Ahvaz. The workers chanted, “Free Haft Tappeh prisoners”, “Steel and Haft Tappeh workers, unite, unite” and “Abandon Syria and think of us”.
Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory at its height
The Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company is located 14 kilometers from Shush in Khuzestan province and covers 24,000 hectares. The company began its production in 1961.
The plant was expected to produce 90 tons of sugar per hectare in its first year, though it exceeded expectations and reached an average of 137 tons per hectare. Considering that around 12,000 hectares were allocated to planting, its production reached an astonishing 1.6 million tons of sugar.
Haft Tappeh now
According to the state-run Tabnak website, “The sugar production target (in the Islamic Republic of Iran) was set at 100,000 tons.
The website said that at the time of the factory’s privatization, its production was 35,000 tons of sugar.
During the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005- 2013), the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory along with many other state-owned companies went bankrupt due to mismanagement and corruption. In 2015, the government of Hassan Rouhani decided to privatize the factory to rid itself of its financial burden.
According to the head of the Iranian Privatization Organization (IPO), the company had accumulated losses of about 345 billion tomans before its privatization. Also, the company had not paid salaries to its workers for about seven months.
A simple calculation reveals that the company’s production decreased by 93%. That means one-third of the initial production target.
Corruption under the guise of privatization
IPO’s value for the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory was put at 292 billion tomans. This is while according to Tabnak, the company has “24,000 hectares of high quality land, worth about 100 million tomans per hectare.”
A simple calculation shows that 24 hectares of the factory is worth more than 2,400 billion tomans. One may ask how the company, including its land, machinery and business value was assessed at 292 billion tomans.
According to a retired chief executive of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory, “with 12,000 hectares of arable land, 13,000 hectares of land that can be leveled and used and three active factories with a production capacity of 100,000 tons of white sugar, 4,000 tons of livestock food, 2 million liters of 98% alcohol per year, in addition to equipment, raw materials, and machinery, was sold at around 306 billion tomans (cash and installments)”.
The former chief executive said that the Sugarcane factory’s owners had “looted” the company.
The source of all institutionalized corruption in Iran are the companies affiliated with and under the direct supervision of the regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.