LONDON: Human Rights Watch has urged Iranian authorities to provide workers with their rights amid mounting economic and political challenges.
Alongside Human Rights Act, an Iranian rights group, HRW lamented the deterioration of the country’s economic conditions and the regime’s attempts to silence and stifle mounting protests and dissent.
“Iranian labor activists have been at the forefront of the struggle for the rights to free association and assembly in Iran, and they have paid a heavy price from government repression,” Tara Sepehri Far, a senior Iran researcher at HRW, said ahead of International Workers’ Day on May 1.
“Iranian authorities should recognize the rights of labor unions and engage in meaningful efforts to address the country’s mounting economic problems.”
Prosecutions and detentions of labor activists have been rife in Iran as protests have ramped up, with at least 69 being arrested in the last year.
HRA said dozens have been summoned for interrogation, with members of the Iranian Teachers Trade Association being harassed and interrogated amid calls for raised wages and working conditions. Ismael Abdi, the association’s secretary, has been detained for the past five years.
HRA said at least 45,462 workers are waiting for delayed wages, up from 34,318 in the previous annual assessment.
Seventy-six percent of delayed wages originated from the public sector, especially in Iranian municipalities.
Protests have been sparked amid a deterioration in health and safety levels at work, with HRA saying 10,707 workers had been injured since May 2021.
Even more worrying is the death toll, with official statistics revealing that at least 1,200 people have died of work-related injuries over the past 12 years.
From 2008 to 2018, 15,997 Iranian workers died in work-related incidents, according to the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization.
In the last year, some 780 separate strikes have been lodged by HRA. Since 2018, it has documented some 4,042 protests and 1,169 strikes by labor and trade associations.
Iranian law prohibits workers from creating unions beyond government-sanctioned groups. Nonetheless, thousands of Iranian workers have gathered to form large, independent unions.
“Iran’s ongoing and widespread rights violations against workers and labor rights activists are of grave concern,” said Skylar Thompson, senior advocacy coordinator at HRA.
“The sheer number of events documented by HRA over the past several years underlines the urgency for reform in light of a serious lack of sufficient and adequate protections for workers’ rights.”