Founded half-a-century ago in the southern city of Shush, in Khuzestan Province, Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company is the oldest sugar factory in Iran. Some 5,600 workers are currently working at the company.
Since the privatization of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company in a murky 2015 privatization deal, the condition of workers has worsened. They say, “Since the transfer of ownership to the present owners, the company’s debts have increased, with the employer only thinking of reducing the permanent work force.”
Accusing the government of supporting the wealthy, the workers complain they have become poorer while the managers of the company have become richer.
In explaining the plight of workers who do not receive their wages for months, trade unionist Jafar Azimzadeh, the leading member of the Free Union of Workers in Iran, described their condition as “slavery.” “The families of some workers have to buy bread on credit, because of unpaid salaries and if this situation continues, even bakeries will refuse to sell bread to the workers on credit,” he said.
Under such pressure, some workers even have reached to the point of committing suicide.
Ali Naghdi was the latest instance whose dead body was found afloat in a canal on February 27. It is said that Naghdi committed suicide due to his debts as the company refused to pay his money.
Haft Tappeh workers have always had to fight for their wages, pensions and rights in the past years.
In recent months, they have been going on strikes periodically, protesting unfulfilled promises made by their employer.
Iranian officials however responded the leaders and members of Haft Tappeh Workers’ Syndicate with arrests, detentions and prison terms.
At least 100 workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company have been summoned or detained only for speaking out, standing up and demanding their rights.
- The Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company in Ahwaz announced on Sunday, February 4, that at least 34 of their workers were arrested by the police in their ongoing strike. Ismail Bakhshi, Karamat Pam, Rahim Besak and Ramadan Alipour were among the detainees. According to reports, the four were interrogated. The report indicates that the detainees were transferred to the Haft Tappeh Police Station. There is no news on the charges brought against them.
- A number of workers, including Hassan Alkasir, Amir Alkasir, Majid Amiri, and eight others were summoned to the Shush Intelligence Department via telephone on Tuesday March 6. Earlier, Ramadan Alipour and Rahim Beshagh, labor activists and members of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company Union were summoned by the 3rd Branch of the Shush Court.
- Summons were issued for about 20 Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company workers following a gathering outside of the governorate on March 28 in Ahwaz. The summons said that the workers had to report in to the Shush Prosecutor’s Office at 9 am on Saturday March 31. The workers who went to the Office on March 31 were told that it was closed for the holidays. According to reports, at 1 pm on the same day, security forces came to the Sugarcane Company with arrest warrants for the workers and detained a number of them. The forces then went to the homes of other workers to detain them.