The new Iranian labour movement stands at a crucial turning point. On 8 March over 35,000 teachers from Tehran province protested against low pay outside the Majles (parliament). Around 50 to 60 of them have now been arrested, including a number of their leaders. In all over 100,000 teachers have taken to the streets during the past few days. They have very simple demands: a living wage and better conditions. Yet at a meeting with government officials following their fourth protest a Majles member told their representatives: there would be no negotiations and that their “pressures . will have no effect on . [the officials’] decision-making!


 


The teachers are just the latest section of workers who have had to take action to defend their rights. Since March 2005 the activists of the Trade Union of the Vahed Bus Company of Tehran and Suburbs have been struggling for legal recognition of their union and improved pay and conditions. The Iranian government’s response has been very severe: their office was smashed up, the Steering Committee members were beaten up and Mansour Ossalou, their leader, was cut in the face and on the tongue! Since then the Vahed drivers and workers have been on strike many times and have been arrested on many occasions. Mr Ossalou was held in Tehran‘s notorious Evin prison from December 2005 until August 2006. He was often held in solitary confinement and mistreated in various ways. He was released after a bail of £83,300 (equivalent to 125 years’ wages!) was set and on 24 February 2007 his ‘trial’ started.


 


Many other struggles have taken place during the past three years. On many occasions the workers have been joined in their struggles by other sections of society, especially students. In Kurdish areas the population of whole towns have confronted the government in support of workers and labour activists. The workers’ struggles, and discussions on how to develop them, have now led to the formation of the Cooperation Council of Labour Organisations and Activists. It aims to create a broad united action bloc of workers.


 


In addition, women, unemployed youth, students and most national minorities have been involved in their own struggles against the destitution and injustices that the government has imposed on them. The aim of the ‘Iranian workers are not alone!’ campaign on 1st May 2007 is to call for the following points to be put into effect:


 


* Granting all workers’ demands, including the right to strike, to set up their own independent workers’ organisations, the right to free speech and assembly;


 


* An end to all physical attacks, arrests, murder and torture of workers and toilers in factories and working class areas;


 


* The unconditional release of all political prisoners and dropping all charges against Mansour Ossalou and all women, teachers and students detained during recent demonstrations.


 


We call on all trade unionists and labour activists of the world to support the Tehran teachers’ and bus drivers’ struggles and the ‘Iranian workers are not alone!’ day of action on 1st May. This will be a day of action in defence of all Iranian workers as well as all those who stand with the labour movement.


 


The new Iranian labour movement stands at a crucial turning point: with your support we can help it move forwards in restoring its previous gains. For details of the ‘Iranian workers are not alone!’ please refer to the IWSN website.


 


Free all labour activists imprisoned in Iran!


Long live the Iranian workers’ united bloc!


Long live international solidarity!


 


Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network,


Workers’ Action Committee (Iran).


19 March 2007


 


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