Iran: Wagon Pars workers stage sit-in over unpaid wages

On August 25 workers at the Wagon Pars factory in Arak, central Iran, went on strike over unpaid wages. Following months of tension with the factory’s owners and managers, the workers staged a sit-in protest by sitting on the ground, locking the factory gate and preventing any managers from entering the factory.

The managers of Wagon Pars, a company manufacturing train rolling stock, first reacted to the strike with threats and intimidation. They also tried to disperse the workers. The protesting workers, who have not been paid their fixed and regular wages for several months, were not intimidated and did not leave their positions in the factory. Threats to sack the few remaining contract workers, threats of legal action against the permanent and long-standing workers, threats to let the riot police enter the factory, and other threats common to all managers in Iran, were among the managers’ other threats.

Wagon Pars, which until recently was one of the big public companies, was ‘handed over’ for privatisation after the policies of Article 44 of the Constitution were enacted. Now more than half its shares are owned by the Iran Khodro company. Since being ‘handed over’ this company has suffered from a severe financial crisis. According to the company’s clerical staff and workers, government loans worth more than five hundred billion tomans ($505.66 million) are supposed to have been spent by Iran Khodro’s managers in renovating Iran Khodro’s subsidiary companies. But not a cent of this was spent on the renovation of this big factory.

On Tuesday, August 25, after the protesting workers resisted the factory managers’ threats, Wagon Pars’s general manager contacted the main shareholder of the factory to consult on the bosses’ next move. He then announced that in order to help provide workers and their families with their basic necessities the next morning (Wednesday, 26 August) two hundred and fifty thousand tomans ($253) will be paid to each one of them. However, depending on their wage level, the workers of the factory are already owed between approximately 1,500,000 ($1,516) to 2,800,000 tomans ($2,831) for several months’ unpaid wages.

After workers returned to work at 2pm on Tuesday, management began attempting to throw them out of the factory and announced that to punish them all overtime and benefits will be cut and that soon all the remaining contract workers would be sacked.

A number of Arak local council’s workers have said that due to limits set on Arak’s growth, which is caused by the land shortage in the mountainous areas, members of the economic mafia, which is headed by senior officers of the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) of Central Province, have decided to shut down three big factories near Arak, to change their land use status, and by building new towns, make huge profits.

This rumour gained strength when, without any prior notice, passers-by saw a highway that had quietly been built in the middle of the land of the machine manufacturing and combine harvester factories. The highway is now being covered with asphalt!

The workers of Wagon Pars have also been present at the factory area today (Thursday, 27 August), but have refused to produce anything. They have declared that in case the factory’s management does not give up its recent provocative decisions, pay the workers’ their backpay and fails to guarantee the pensions of this bankrupt former public factory, they will begin more serious protests against the current management.

A report by an IWSN contact in Iran, 27 August 2009 and translated by Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network.