Iran: Oil Workers Reject Trade Unions

In the capitalist world, whatever the subject, it naturally only hits the headlines if the rulers of all factions are in control of it. If the news is about a war, climate change, economic downturn, regime change, elections, protests, immigration, in fact any issue where the working class as a class is absent, so it can be manipulated in a way that suits the ruling class, then not only is it covered by mass media, it also grabs the attention of “independent” media and journalists. They usually follow it up with tedious discussions, seminars, films and even more news. On the contrary, where an event takes place where the working class might be in control, even partially, then the story is different. The first step is to suffocate it by a news blackout. Then if that does not work, the army of false friends and reformists appear on the scene. This is exactly what is happening in Iran today.

Over 100,000 workers, under extremely difficult conditions in the presence of the pandemic (Iran has one of the highest death rates) have been on strike from 19 June, yet there is hardly any news about it either nationally or internationally. Its coverage is not just absent from state media, it is hardly mentioned even in “independent” media.

Despite the news boycott, they are fighting on many fronts. Below is their latest statement, which, in itself, gives evidence of how far these brave workers in Iran have gone.

Statement No. 19:

Our answer in the oil sector is to elect real workers' representatives, not trade associations.
The oil industry, with thousands of workers, could not be dealt with within the framework of the Islamic Councils, as the state was afraid of the formation of even these state-created institutions. But with the start of our widespread and nationwide oil contract workers strikes, the idea of creating Islamic Councils, was raised. We immediately stood up against it and announced that we would not allow our work environment to be militarized further through the creation of Islamic Councils. Now they are putting forward the idea of trade associations, a subset of the Workers' House, another state institution, in order to suffocate our struggle, to try to contain our protests within the framework of the very regulations that we have risen up against, i.e to get rid of the contractors and abolish the Special Economic Zone regulations.
For example, elections are currently underway to form trade associations among our third pillar(1) workers in the various refineries of the South Pars Gas Complex. The "election" was held on 1 September at the ninth refinery and apparently the time for "elections" in other centres have been announced as well. For example, at the twelfth refinery, "elections" will be held on 14 September. In short, they are rapidly setting up their own puppet organisations. Our warning to workmates is to distance themselves from these state-made organisations, and our emphasis is on relying on our General Assembly and electing real representatives. A practical version of what happened in Hafshjan, where our workmates, by choosing their representatives, went to the negotiating table with the representatives of the contractors and showed us all the way forward.
We know that many of our third pillar workmates in the oil and refineries sectors have pursued such a plan because of the need to organize themselves. However, not only are the trade associations not the answer to this need, on the contrary, they are a tool that will create divisions and isolation among us workers. Our solution is to rely solely on our General Assembly as a place for council style decision-making to exercise our direct will to elect our real representatives. This is our real and correct answer to the question of organisation, and now that we are on the middle of a strike, the only way is to keep up with our united and collective decision-making power in our General Assemblies, to conclude collective agreements and not allow plundering contractors to loot more from our lives and livelihoods, and limit the scope of their daily attacks on our lives and livelihoods, by getting rid of them from our workplaces.
Our workers' organisation must be the voice of our protest against contract work and temporary employment contracts. Our voice of protest must be against slavery regulations of Special Economic Zones. It must be against the militarising of our work environments. Creating puppet state organizations is a step against all this, in order to create a more restrictive environment at work. Let us prevent such plans from being implemented, giving ground to state organizations such as the trade associations to split our protest line and divert our struggle leads only to a dead end.
Fellow workers!
Our strike of contracted oil workers has been successful so far. It has delivered a strong blow against the barracks-type atmosphere that dominates our work environment. With our strike we have warned them that we are no longer willing to continue to work in humiliating conditions of slavery, with contractual and temporary contracts in the oil fields. To a great degree, we have been able to weaken the contractors' position and have imposed our demands on them. Now, together with you, colleagues of the third pillar, we can go further, march on in strength and in step until all our demands are met. Holding a General Assembly and relying on collective council decisions and exercising the will of the workers, electing real workers' representatives and establishing a third pillar workers' assembly of representatives of all refineries is the practical way of organising, this is the way for all of us workers, across all oil centres.
Let us, by relying on our manpower of thousands, get rid of all the looting contractors. This goal can only be achieved by convening General Assemblies and electing real workers' representatives.
Council for Organising Protests by Oil Contract Workers
2 September 2021

Photo: placard on the left - "trade associations are state made institutions"; placards in the middle - "trade association" crossed out and "oil and gas are not easily produced, it costs our lives"; placard on the right: "no militarisation of the work environment"

(1) There are 3 types of employment: 1) Formal, 2) Contractual, 3) Labor Law. The first group is the official employee of a person who has been hired by one of the groups in the legal table to hold one of the permanent organisational positions. The second group refers to a contract employee who has been hired for a specific job under a specific contract. This group is actually employees who are going through their contractual courses of 2 and 4 years to eventually enter the first (official) system. The third group is the labor law group. Those employees are those who do not have a specific contract and period of employment, in other words, they are a subset of the Labor Office and the Social Security Organisation. As a result, in the administrative system, the first group is called the first pillar, the second group is called the second pillar, and the third group is called the third pillar.

Friday, September 10, 2021