About 31 workers were arrested at about 2 am, Monday, 17 December, 2018 and at least another 10 workers were arrested on 18 December 2018.
During the arrests, Islamic of Republic Iran forces beat some steel workers in front of family members and seized their personal belongings, including their cell phones.
On the morning of 19 December, police forces and the Revolutionary Guards seized parts of Ahvaz city to prevent the gathering of workers at the Iran National Steel Industry Group (INSIG) factory in Ahvaz, who are striking against the failure of their employers to pay them for months at a time.
Nevertheless, a large group of workers courageously continued to protest and called for the release of their arrested colleagues.
INSIG workers have been in dispute with the private sector owners for more than a year after they failed to fulfil their obligations to run the plant in Ahvaz at full capacity. Workers are demanding the plant is returned to the public sector and are calling for strategic investment to ensure it is profitable and sustainable.
The demands of workers at INSIG, as well those of striking workers at the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Complex, are backed by a large number of trade unions, workers’ organizations, and social and political organizations, and are garnering increasing support in wider Iranian society.
“Ever since the wave of protests engulfed Iran earlier this year, the regime has been running scared of any opposition. They know how much anger there is beneath the surface of society in Iran. Workers merely attempting to organize to demand their due wages and salaries and improve their terms and conditions – a basic human right in any democracy – are seen as a challenge to the regime,” said Jamshid Ahmadi, from IndustriALL affiliate, the Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran.
In a letter to the President of Iran, IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
“IndustriALL strongly condemns the arrests of the striking steel workers and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. IndustriALL further demands the payment of all unpaid wages, the immediate ceasing of all measures designed to coerce the workforce, and the protection of fundamental labour rights, including the rights of workers to join a union of their choice, and engage in collective bargaining.”