Conditions for those workers worsened after the privatization of the company in 2015. They say, “Since the transfer of ownership to the present owners, the company’s debts have increased, with the employer only thinking of reducing the permanent work force.” They claim that they have become poorer while the managers of the company have become richer.
Trade unionist Jafar Azimzadeh, leading member of the Free Union of Workers in Iran, described workers’ conditions as “slavery.” Because workers do not receive wages for months, “The families of some workers have to buy bread on credit, because of unpaid salaries and if this situation continues, even bakeries will refuse to sell bread to the workers on credit,” he said.
Pressure like this has even caused some workers to have committed suicide. The latest instance is Ali Naghdi, whose body was found floating in a canal on February 27th. It is believed that Naghdi committed suicide after accruing large debts when the company refused to pay his salary.
In the past few years, Haft Tappeh workers have had to fight for their wages, pensions, and benefits. They have gone on strike in recent months to protest unfulfilled promises made by their employer. In response, Iranian officials have arrested, detained, and imprisoned the leaders and members of Haft Tappeh Workers’ Syndicate.
In fact, it is reported that at least 100 workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company have been summoned or detained for speaking out and demanding their rights.
For instance, on Sunday, February 4th, The Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company in Ahwaz announced that at least 34 of their striking workers were arrested. Reports indicate that the detainees were transferred to the Haft Tappeh Police Station, but there is is no information regarding the charges brought against them.
There is also an instance on Tuesday, March 6th, when a number of workers were summoned to the Shush Intelligence Department by telephone. As well, labor activists and members of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company Union were summoned by the 3rd Branch of the Shush Court.
Additionally, on March 28th, in Ahwaz, summonses were issued for about 20 Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company workers following a gathering outside of the governorate. The summonses demanded that the workers report to the Shush Prosecutor’s Office on the morning of Saturday March 31st. Allegedly, workers who went to the Office that day were told that it was closed for the holidays. Reportedly, that afternoon, security forces went to the Sugarcane Company with arrest warrants for the workers who were there, and then went to the homes of other workers to detain them.