At least 15 workers were injured and many more arrested after security forces used violence to break up a peaceful demonstration. Around 900 workers were protesting against months of unpaid wages and privatization of the company.
According to reports, demonstrators were able to block the north-south railway line for several hours prompting a vicious retaliation from the Iranian regime’s forces.
Family members of the detainees and many HEPCO workers have gone to the main gate of Arak’s jail to beg the release of their loved ones, who have been detained for a week.
HEPCO, which produces road construction equipment for Iran and the Middle East, was privatized by the Iranian regime in 2017. Since then, workers say wages have been late or unpaid and the once profitable complex has been mismanaged. Furthermore, the workforce has reportedly been reduced from 8,000 workers to 1,000 since privatization.
HEPCO workers held a previous demonstration outside the company offices on 7 September, demanding transparency on the ownership and shareholding status of the company. In October 2018, 15 workers were sentenced to prison and flogging, after being arrested during demonstrations demanding unpaid wages.
Many industrial enterprises have been privatized in recent years under President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, often being sold below market value to regime insiders with government-backed loans. The owners then use these profitable businesses to gain further loans for other un-related enterprises.
Workers at HEPCO are demanding that the company is returned to public ownership and workers at other privatized enterprises have also come out in solidarity with the HEPCO employees.
IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, Kemal Özkan, said:
“We urge the Iranian government to immediately release the 28 HEPCO workers detained on 16 September. We deplore the brutal attacks on HEPCO workers who were exercising their legal right to peaceful protest. Violence is no way to resolve workers’ legitimate demands to be paid.”
Photos: Iran News Wire – irannewswire.org
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