Following a protest rally held by local sugarcane workers in Shush, southwest Iran, the labor union at the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Mill reports that at least 20 workers were arrested and summoned again for questioning.
The unpaid sugarcane mill workers rallied and went on strike on Thursday, protesting not receiving their last two New Year bonuses and pensions. Five workers were arrested as a result and local police summoned another 15.
Hundreds of the town’s sugar mill workers were protesting for more than two weeks back in November 2018 against non-payment of their wages for months, lack of job security and mismanagement of the factory.
As a result of the destructive policies of the sugar cane factory’s management and the regime authorities involved, Haft Tappeh is on the verge of total bankruptcy. This will endanger the livelihoods of thousands of workers and their family members who depend on their income to make ends meet.
Founded half-a-century ago in the southern city of Shush, in Khuzestan Province, the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Mill is the oldest sugar factory in Iran.
Since the privatization of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Mill in a questionable 2015 privatization deal, the condition of workers has worsened.They have said that 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.
Trade unionist Jafar Azimzadeh, the leading member of the Free Union of Workers in Iran, described the workers’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, explaining the plight of workers who have not received their wages for months.
Under such financial strain, some workers have even reached the point of committing suicide.
Ali Naghdi was the latest instance whose dead body was found afloat in a canal on February 27. It was said that Naghdi committed suicide due to his debts as the company refused to pay his wages.
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.
The last time the Haft Tappeh Sugar Mill workers went on strike was in mid-August when 500 workers protested not being paid for at least three months. Reports indicate that riot police attacked the striking workers with tear gas and beat the protesters. Five workers were also detained but were later released after being charged with “disrupting order.”