Tens of thousands of Iranian Oil workers staged the biggest industrial action since the general strike of 1978-79. Teachers, pensioners, and families seeking justice for their relatives killed during the big wave of protests in November 2019 supported the protests of more than 60,000 workers.
The Iranian oil industry is dominated by the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). But in recent years it has employed a host of contractors, many owned and controlled by state officials and their relatives, who have slashed pay levels and undermined working conditions.
The Strike Organization Council for Oil Contract Workers, that has been set up during the action, is reported to have said that the workers’ main demand is higher wages.
A spokesperson said: “We will no longer tolerate poverty, insecurity, discrimination, inequality and deprivation of our basic human rights. Given the skyrocketing cost of expenses, the monthly wages of workers should not be less than 12 million tomans ($491).”
The strikers demanded the elimination of temporary contracts, an end to the use of contract companies and the recognition of the right to form independent unions, according to other reports. This was supported both by contract employees and by skilled workers in less precarious jobs
As for the contracting companies, one spokesperson said: “These companies either pay bribes to influential [NIOC] managers to secure plum contracts, or have close links to senior state officials.”
“Otherwise, how is it possible that a contractor whose workforce is unhappy and has failed to finish a project on time wins another lucrative contract in Asalouyeh?”
Another interviewee, Alireza, a welder with more than a decade of experience, said that skilled workers such as himself had “started and spread” the industrial action.
He added: “I regret wasting my youth working on oil projects in the Islamic Republic. If I had worked in the neighbouring countries, my family would live in better conditions now.
“The Republic’s leaders boast about their so-called resilient economy, when in fact they line their pockets with the fruits of our labour.”