In the latest sign of protests over economic conditions, Iran’s authorities have arrested at least 10 men in an attempt to break a strike at a steel plant in the southwest of the country.
Security forces seized the workers in overnight raids in Ahvaz, the center of the oil-producing Khuzestan province. A police intelligence unit contacted other strikers and asked them for their addresses.
Hundreds of employees of the National Steel Industrial Group employees have been rallying in front of the Governor-General’s office to demand wages which have not been paid for the past three months. They are holding the former owner of the industrial complex, the National Bank of Iran, “responsible for the livelihood crisis imposed on laborers”; calling for the dismissal of the current owner, Iranian tycoon Abdolreza Mousavi; and seeking the resignation of regional Governor-General Gholamreza Shariati.
Mousavi played down the demands, saying on Instagram that “several malicious individuals” had fomented unrest among the workforce of almost 4,000.
The protesters say that most workers are in debt because of the pay owed to them, that some have had bank accounts closed, and that the steel companies has halted their health insurance.
Protests over pay and working conditions have been common in recent years in Iran, amid the country’s economic difficulties. They crystallized in late December and early January in rallies across the Islamic Republic, bringing the Rouhani Government’s response that it will address concerns.
Construction workers in Urmia in northwestern Iran held a demonstration on Thursday over lack of payment over the past year. Last week, steel mill workers in Urmia rallied in front of the Governor-General’s office over delayed wages. Retired employees of Central Alborz Coal in northern Iran are demanding overdue pensions, and labor protests have started in the cities of Shahr-e Kord and Gachsaran.
The Supreme Leader has accused “foreign enemies” of stoking discord among Iranian workers.