‘Blank Contracts’: Extreme Exploitation in Iran

We live in a universal economic system, called capitalism, yet depth of workers’ exploitation differs hugely in countries like UK from Iran. In Iran the Islamic regime makes sure the workers do not have any rights, so that the capital makes the most profit. Workers situation in Iran is a good example to understand why capital moves from countries like UK to countries such as Iran with cheap labour; and why the Western governments need to support despotism in Iran to guaranty the extreme exploitation of workers.

In Iran more than %80 of workers working in factories, production workshops, and services are working under temporary contracts; that means they don’t know if they will have a job from one day to the next. The two new developments in working conditions that cause extreme exploitation of workers in Iran are:

The ‘monthly contracts’ and the ‘blank contracts’, which are practised in small and big factories.

Monthly contracts:

This is also the case in the work-places which have a permanent work, but they only take workers for one month contract at the time and repeat it with them if they are submissive enough. With temporary contracts workers do not have any rights whiles working and nor when they lose their jobs.

Blank contracts:

Workers are asked to sign a work contract that is blank and only has their name written on it. The employers would fill the rest of the contract form when they don’t need the workers and then would sack them. Not having any kind of social security or NHS, are workers forced to accept the blank contracts. Blank contract, does not even guaranty one month work. Workers do not have the security of work for their next day. Nor they have any legal rights to ask for compensation, etc. Such workers might stay in such a job for years, but they have to be vigilant of not involving in any workers’ rights activity, in order to keep their jobs.

Workers working under temporary contracts do not have the right to sick pay, child benefit, housing benefit, unemployment benefit, job security, job safety, or minimum wage … They also cannot have the protection of legal work contract, and cannot complaint against their employers for losing their jobs, or any injuries at work. For fear of losing their jobs due to temporary contracts, workers cannot show their objection to the violation of their rights, such as inhumane working conditions.

The Islamic regime or the private employers will have noting to do with the workers. Temporary contracts are organised by contractor companies which are working with big industries such as the oil refineries, or municipality services. According to a government official about 200 contractor companies are responsible to find workers ready to work under temporary contracts for Abadan oil refinery. These contractors are dealing with workers and do not recognise even the minimal Islamic labour law for workers, and dismiss them after three or four months work. It is for a couple of years now that in Tehran province, every day about one thousands workers on temporary contracts lose their jobs, and less then %20 of them go back to their jobs again. Thirty thousands workers in Gazvin, which is an industrial town, lost their jobs; and since most of them were working under temporary contracts they do not receive any benefits or pensions.

Workers with temporary contracts do not have the health insurance for any accident even in the work-place. However, the work-place accident rate is very high in Iran, and during first three months of 2009, just more than 4 thousand workers who were entitled to health insurance had accident in their work-place.

Though workers in Iran have not the right to organise themselves and face prison and torture in their attempt to fight for their rights, yet many workers try to pursue their struggle and solidarity campaigns through their underground network. Despite such hard work condition and high unemployment, there are hundreds of strikes every year. Unfortunately due to not receiving their wages on time, most of the workers strikes are for apposing late or non-payment. Unemployment and low wages on top of other problems were the cause of many suicides among the workers during last few years. ITI factory is one of these work-places with one thousand workers, in which a worker tried to kill himself last week, but was saved by his workmates. Workers in ITI have not received their wages for seven months now. After saving the worker who wanted to kill himself, workers gathered in front of the factory and demanded their wages, but they were dispersed by military forces.

The only way to stop this extreme exploitation of workers in Iran is international solidarity between all workers, despite borders. We must stand for the right to organise, for unemployment benefit and other rights which workers enjoy in the UK, for workers in Iran. In such a struggle for each other’s rights we can reach a world solidarity that might enable us to lead the world to a better place.