The current living circumstances have become intolerable for Iranian society, particularly for hardworking laborers who have been grappling with financial difficulties, high prices, and inflation for years. Experts estimate that a worker would need to save their entire income for 42 years to purchase a house, and even then, their income may not be sufficient to cover rent alone.
According to the head of the trade unions of construction workers, housing costs have experienced a 1000% inflation since 2016, over a seven-year period. This statistic is just one aspect of the disaster that workers and the people of Iran are facing.
In response, the regime’s Supreme Labor Council approved 900,000 tomans for housing rights for workers, but this is not sufficient given the rampant corruption and theft within the regime’s agencies. This resolution may lead to more marginalization of wage earners, particularly in big cities like Tehran. So far, many people have become homeless and are sleeping in buses, graves, rooftops, etc.
The regime’s statistics predict that if the trend of marginalization continues, by 2025, 20% of the country’s population will live in and around Tehran. The regime has failed to provide a solution to these issues, with Maskan Bank’s proposed solution being a mere band-aid on the wound.
The conditions for Iranian workers are dire, with many facing delayed or reduced wages and benefits. Independent trade unions are prohibited, and the regime only permits one national labor organization, the Workers’ House, which is closely controlled by the state. Labor laws do not provide adequate protection, particularly for informal sector workers who do not have access to social security, health insurance, or other benefits.
Women workers face even greater challenges, with limited access to maternity leave and other benefits. Iranian workers continue to organize and protest for better working conditions and rights despite these challenges. However, the government has responded harshly, using violence and arrests to suppress dissent.
Presently, the workforce in Iran comprises over 26 million individuals and is employed in industries, mining, services, agriculture, as well as administrative and banking services. This includes workers in different employment categories, such as 13.7 million insured individuals in the private sector, 3.7 million wage earners working in the public sector, 3.2 million retirees and pensioners of the Social Security Organization, 6.2 million unemployed individuals, and numerous uninsured wage earners in the private sector.
Independent labor organizations or unions that could significantly impact labor rights in Iran are notably absent. Consequently, most workers in manufacturing and industrial enterprises, particularly those in service units, remain unorganized, leading to a state of complete disarray. This renders the workers voiceless, with no platform to articulate their demands.
Another challenge that the workers face is the high number of occupational accidents. According to the state-run news agency ILNA, compared to other developing countries, workers in Iran enjoy much less work safety and the number of workers dying during work is much higher.
Every year, 13,000 work-related accidents occur in Iran, 700-800 of which result in death. In the Kurdistan region alone, 365 porters lose their lives per year, whether because of harsh working conditions and accidents due to working conditions or being killed by the regime’s forces.
Although construction and mining workers account for less than one-third of all insured workers and less than one-third of all industrial workers in Iran, they are disproportionately affected by work accidents resulting in fatalities. In fact, 55.4% of fatal work accidents occur in these two sectors, which employ 3.2 million and 200,000 workers, respectively.
Iranian workers do not have much power to protest; Why?
Due to rapid inflation and a 50% increase in the price of essential goods and household items, the poverty line for a family of 3.5 people is between 5.6 and 8.5 million tomans. Meanwhile, the minimum monthly wage for workers, including bonuses, is only 1.8 million tomans. According to the statistics and documents of the Social Security Organization, around 80% of insured workers receive the minimum wage or a wage very close to it.
This year, workers’ salaries are barely reaching 2.5 million tomans, which is alarming. Additionally, many workers, particularly those in rural areas and female workers, are forced to accept wages below the approved minimum and work more than the standard 8-hour workday to secure job opportunities. As a result, they are deprived of the minimum protections guaranteed by labor laws. These workers fear losing their jobs if they speak out against the injustices they face.
In summary, Iranian workers face significant challenges, including low wages, limited protection under the law, and government restrictions on independent trade unions and labor activists. Despite these obstacles, workers continue to fight for better working conditions and labor rights.