The ten workers were reportedly seized by police at their homes on the night of 1 and 2 March on arrest warrants issued by Ahvaz prosecutor’s office. The reason for their arrest has not been given.
Workers at the steel plant have been staging a series of strikes and protests since the end of January and have not been paid for three months.
Following the arrests, hundreds of workers marched through streets of Ahvaz on 3 March, calling for the release of the imprisoned workers and payment of wages. “We need bread, medical treatment and medicine,” they demanded.
In a letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, IndustriALL General Secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
“We call on you to intervene immediately to guarantee the payment of unpaid wages of 4,000 workers at the National Iranian Steel Company in Ahvaz, ensure the release of the workers, and protect fundamental labour rights, including the rights of workers to join a union of their choice, and engage in collective bargaining.”
In October 2017, the Iranian National Bank sold the steel complex to Iranian tycoon, Abdolreza Mousavi, in a bid to recover its debts. The company has been mismanaged and is now functioning at 10 per cent of its real capacity. It cannot even buy raw material as it is considered bankrupt.
Iran is the world’s 14th largest steel producer and its steelmaking capacity has more than tripled since 2007 to 37 million tonnes annually. The Iranian government has announced plans to increase national steelmaking capacity to 55 million tons by 2025.
During a plenary session of the OECD Steel Committee in Paris on 5 March, IndustriALL’s Director for Base Metals, Adam Lee, warned that this increase in steel production in Iran and the Middle East combined with the lack of respect for core labour rights in the region is deeply concerning, citing the arrest of the ten steel workers in Ahvaz.
“We urge the OECD Steel Committee to raise concern with Middle Eastern governments about both overcapacity and violation of workers’ fundamental rights,” said Lee.
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