Tue, 18 Mar 1997 00:28:25 GMT


In an earlier posting we reported the decision of the International Trade Union Solidarity Campaign (ITUSC) International Workers' Conference to support the struggle of the Iranian oil workers. The ITUSC sent messages of support to the workers in struggle, via our sister organisation, the Committee for the Defence and Support of Iranian Oil Workers. We also sent letters of protest to the Iranian Embassy in Britain and the Oil Ministry.We also joined a picket of the Iranian Embassy in London on 24 February.

On 16 February 1997, a huge oil workers rally took place in front of the oil ministry in Tehran, Iran, and the Islamic militias attacked the crowd and inflicted beatings. Hundreds were arrested. After several days, most of those detained were released, but some are still in prison.

On 2 March, we received news from reliable sources in Iran that at least two of the demonstrators have since died of the injuries inflicted upon them in detention. Oil workers informed us that at least two others have probably died whilst being tortured.

Oil workers of the Shiraz refinery marched to the city and demanded the unconditional release of their comrades and acceptance of all their demands by the government of Iran, including the right to organise and the right to collective bargaining.

A few days ago, oil workers from Iran informed us that a new wave of arrests had begun, and that more than 50 oil workers, including some of their leaders, were taken to unknown prisons. They have not made contact with their families therefore their current situation is unclear. Our sources also told us that all the refineries are surrounded by Islamic militia guards; the refineries are under siege.

In its response to the letter from the ITUSC, containing the resolution condemning the Iranian regime, the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, London acknowledged that there has been a "recent protest by workers of the oil refinery in Tehran", that the protest concerned "their low wages" and that "workers at the Tehran Refinery protested at their low wages, demanding that the oil ministry take steps to solve their pay and welfare problems".

The ITUSC rejects these points:- + First, the protest is not 'recent'; in fact the protests go back to the period just after the Revolution in 1978-79 and had intensified especially after the Gulf War;

+ Second, it was not only the workers of the refinery in Tehran who 'protested' but workers of many other refineries, namely Shiraz, Tabriz and Isfahan, were equally involved in this dispute. In the period up to the demonstration, workers of the oil pipelines, Iranian national gas and Tehran distribution centre were also involved. Pretending that the 'protest' had quite a narrow base, namely Tehran refinery, the Islamic government is as usual lying.

+ Third, low wages and welfare conditions are important issues in this dispute, but they are not the principal ones. The main dispute was over the right to organise and to form independent, workers' organisations. On 5 and 6 February, all oil refineries and the other industries mentioned above elected representatives who went to Tehran to form their national organisation, which was dissolved by the Iranian government on 7 February. It forced the representatives to return to their cities. The demand for the right to collective bargaining was the second, crucial demand which obviously presupposes a form of organisation among workers. This has been totally rejected by the government. (There were other demands as well).

The Embassy's letter states further that there had been negotiations, and that the problem is solved. The truth is that there have been no negotiations concerning the basic demands of the workers. The regime has told the workers that collective bargaining and forming independent organisations is out of the question. And the protest, contrary to the Embassy's statement, was and is not ended.

The letter ends by claiming that the workers and the oil ministry "had reached an agreement after which the workers returned to their work". By 'agreement' they mean that they have dissolved the founding meeting of 7 February, sent back the workers to their cities, and after the mass rally outside the oil ministry, have injured, imprisoned, tortured and - while torturing- killed workers. And after all that the oil refineries are under a state of siege.

Finally, it is a triumph for the workers that the wall of silence imposed by the Islamic Republic has been broken, mainly through their struggle, but also through international support and solidarity. They still need international solidarity to free their comrades and leaders, and to achieve their just demands, especially the rights to organise and collective bargaining.

Please act urgently to secure the immediate and unconditional release of the arrested Iranian oil workers. Let the Committee for the Defence and Support of the Iranian Oil Workers have your solidarity messages to be passed on, published and broadcast on radio stations which will reach the Iranian oil workers. Put pressure on the Iranian Embassies in your country and the oil ministry in Iran and send a copy of your letters/faxes to:- Iranian Refugee Workers' Association, PO Box 3646, London. SW11 5YT Britain Tel/Fax 0044 (0) 1372 817 778 e-mail:

Communist Party of Iran, C.D.R.T., PO Box 70445, 107 25 Stockholm, Sweden. Fax: (46) 08 86 80 54 Fax: 0044 (0) 181 248 2658

Iranian Workers' Left Unity, PO Box 22634, 1100 DC Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Protests from Britain to:- Iranian Embassy, 16 Prince's Gate, London SW7 1PT Fax. No. 0171 589 4440 ____________________________________________________________________________ _________ This is from the International Trade Union Solidarity Campaign (ITUSC) at:- e-mail: website: 'snail' mail: PO Box 18, Epsom, Britain, KT18 7YR Tel/Fax ++44 (0) 1372 817 778 The ITUSC is an international and internationalist association of organised workers and communities, dedicated to rebuilding the workers' movement and to overcoming sectarianism and division in working class organisations. It was founded in 1991 on the following principles: 1) trade unions independent of the state and employers; 2) democracy within trade unions, and; 3) workers' internationalism. Any individuals or organisations that accept these principles and are prepared to work for them, are regarded as comrades by the ITUSC. ____________________________________________________________________________ ________


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