The ITUC does not have an affiliate in Iran.
Freedom of association / Right to organise
Restrictions on workers' right to form and join organisations of their own choosing:
- Single trade union system imposed by law and/or a system banning or limiting organising at a certain level (enterprise, industry and/or sector, regional and/or territorial, national)
- The only authorised national workers’ organisation is the Workers’ House, which is an entity set up and backed by the authorities and employers. The 1990 Labour Law stipulates that an Islamic Labour Council (Shoraya Eslami) or a guild society can be established at any workplace, or alternatively a workers’ representative can be appointed (Art.131 Labour Law).
- Restrictions on workers' right to join the trade union of their choosing imposed by law (i.e. obligation to join a trade union of a certain level e.g. enterprise, industry and/or sector, regional and /or territorial national)
- The Islamic Labour Councils are formed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs pursuant to Article 15 of the law for the Formation of Islamic Labour Councils (1985) which states that the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is obliged to form the Islamic Labour Councils in units which have more than 35 permanent employees. Also, Article 1 of the By-Laws of the Islamic Labour Council’s Election (1985) explicitly makes reference to the Islamic Labour Councils formed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
Restrictions on trade unions' right to organise their administration:
- Restrictions on the right to freely draw up their constitutions and rules
- The Supreme Labour Council decides on trade union rules upon approval by the Council of Ministers (Art.131 Labour Law, 1990 (Note 5).
- Restrictions on the right to elect representatives and self-administer in full freedom
- Art.136 Labour Law, 1990: All official representatives of the workers of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the International Labour Organisation, the Boards of Inquiry, the Disputes Boards, the High Council of Social Security, the High Council for Occupational Safety and the like, shall, as the case may be, be elected by the High Centre of Islamic Labour Councils, the High Centre of Workers’ Guild Societies or by the assembly of workers’ representatives. Note 2: pending the establishment of the workers’ and employers’ organisations provided for in this Chapter, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs shall select and appoint the said representatives to assemblies, councils, and high centres. Art.2 of Article 136 of the implementing regulations for the labour legislation, 1992: In the event that there may be no higher labour organisation the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs can advise on the election of representatives. Art.4 of Article 136 of the implementing regulations for the labour legislation, 1992: The candidates that are nominated by the higher union or the relevant workers’ assembly according to Article 1 of these regulations must satisfy the criteria below: citizen of the Islamic Republic of Iran, no previous criminal record, no experience with drugs, at least 5 years work experience, at least 30 years of age, and in possession of a secondary level education certificate. Art.5 of Article 136 of the implementing regulations for the labour legislation, 1992: Supervision of the selection process for candidates required for these regulations and the enforcement of the selection criteria for candidate in Article 4 is the responsibility of a committee comprising of two supervisors from the higher union or the relevant workers assembly mentioned in Article 1 of these regulations- and a member from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
Categories of workers prohibited or limited from forming or joining a union, or from holding a union office:
- Export processing zone (EPZ) workers
- Workers in export processing zones are excluded from rights guaranteed under the Labour Law. Art. 5 Law of the Administration of Commercial and Industrial Free Zones stipulates that export processing zones “do not come under the jurisdiction of laws and regulations applying to government companies, nor that of government regulations, and they shall strictly and exclusively abide by the rules of this specific law and its articles, and shall administer their organisation accordingly.”
- Agricultural workers
- In the agricultural sector, activities related to growing and management of fruit trees, various plants, forests, pastures, parks, animal husbandry, raising and breeding of poultry and birds, the silkworm industry, breeding marine animals, beekeeping, cultivation, growing and harvesting and other agricultural activities are exempted from parts of this Code, at the proposal of the Supreme Labour Council, and subject to the approval of the Council of Ministers (Art.189 Labour Law, 1990).
- Others categories
- Workers are defined as persons who work “in a capacity at the request of an employer in return for remuneration” (Art.2 Labour Law, 1990). This definition excludes informal workers from rights guaranteed in the Labour Law. Enterprises with less than ten workers may also be excluded “Small-scale enterprises with fewer than ten workers may, as circumstances require, be temporarily excluded from some of the provisions of this Code. Determination as to such exceptional cases shall be in conformity with regulations to be proposed by the Supreme Labour Council and approved by the Council of Ministers.” Workers employed in “family workplaces where work is performed exclusively by the employer, his wife and his blood relatives in the first degrees are not” protected by the Labour Law (Art. 188).
Right to collective bargaining
Restrictions on the scope of application and legal effectiveness of concluded collective agreements:
- Authorities' approval of freely concluded collective agreements
- To enter into force, collective agreements must be approved by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which shall decide whether the agreement is in compliance with the law (Arts.140-141 Labour Law, 1990).
In June 2012, the Ministry of Industry, Mining, and Commerce sent a letter to trade unions and associations involved in the production and distribution of goods, banning them from giving interviews to the media about inflation rates.
Last April, more than 50 teachers and educational workers were in detention or were summoned and awaiting their court hearings related to “national security” or “union activities”. 46 journalists were imprisoned and are still in various jails across the country. The jail terms range from 6 months to 19 years and the charges range from “Insulting the supreme leader” to “Assembly and collusion with the intent to disrupt national security” or “Moharebeh (waging war against God), propagating against the regime”, and even “Anti-state charges related to work in documenting violations of human rights”.
Mohammad Tavakoli, Secretary of the Kermanshah Teachers’ Guild Association was arrested in February 2013 and recently sentenced to exile from his home province. Previous harsher cases include the earlier detention of teacher Abdolreza Ghanbari who was tortured, ill-treated and for a long time denied access to a lawyer. Mr. Ghanbari was tried unfairly by the Tehran Revolutionary Court in January 2010 and sentenced to death for ’Moharebeh’.
Shahrokh Zamani, a labour activist, was arrested on June 7, 2011, sentenced to 11 years in prison, and transferred to various prisons, and is now banned from face-to-face visitations and phone calls.
On 15 June, 60 members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organisations and a number of labour activists were arrested in Karaj. The detainees were transferred to Rajai Shahr prison where some were reportedly beaten and ill-treated.
On the eve of International Labour Day, seven major labour organisations in Iran issued a joint statement* demanding pay rises, an end to repression and cronyism, and the right to strike
The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.
See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike and form independent labour organisations. Over 200 workers in the city of Sanandaj attempted to organise a Labour Day meeting but they were faced with a huge police presence.
* The joint statement was signed by the following labour organisations: Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company Workers’ Trade Union, Free Trade Union of Iranian Workers, Re-launching Committee of the Trade Union of Painters and Decorators, Re-launching Committee of the Trade Union of Metal and Mechanical Workers, The Center for Defenders of Workers’ Rights in Iran, Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company Workers’ Trade Union, Pursuit Committee for the Formation of Labour Organisations and Co-ordination Committee for the Formation of Labour Organisations.
In February, the Association of Iranian Journalists (AoIJ) stated that at least 34 journalists remain in prison, including two women Nazanin Khosravani and Hengameh Shahidi. In January reports emerged of the arrest of Dr. Fariborz Raisdana, a labour activist and a member of the Iranian writers’ association and the Centre of Defenders of Workers’ Rights. In February, security forces arrested two journalists, working for Shargh, the only remaining reformist newspaper. Also in February, the former head of the Iranian news agency was arrested while four more journalists were detained for questioning.
In March, Kaveh Ghassemi Kermanshahi, Iranian journalist member of the Central Council of the Human Rights Organisation of Kurdistan, also signatory to the “One Million Signatures Campaign”, was sentenced to four years in prison for allegedly “acting against national security” and “propaganda” while Abdolreza Tajik, journalist and human rights activist, was sentenced to six years in prison, for “membership in an illegal group”; and one year for “propaganda” and “publishing false reports”. Partly in response to their coverage of the demonstrations, Jay Deshmukh, the AFP deputy bureau chief in Tehran, was expelled from Iran in April and stripped of his press card along with ten other correspondents.
In December, the Committee to Protect Journalists published a worldwide prison census for journalists, declaring the Islamic Republic of Iran as the world’s worst jailer, with 42 journalists behind bars. However other estimates give figures of around 100 journalists imprisoned since 2009.
Since 1999, separate independent teacher associations have been formed, and in 2001 the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teacher Trade Associations (CCITTA) was founded. In 2007, teachers’ protests led to the harassment, detention and incarceration of labour activists, and many suffered pay cuts, were dismissed and forced to retire. The Interior Ministry has since issued a ban on all teachers’ associations. Even though the associations have never been formally dissolved by court, intelligence officers insist that the associations have been liquidated by the government and that the teachers should resign from them. Several teacher associations have been crushed by the intelligence service, but some, such as the associations in Tehran, Esfahan and Kermanshah, remain active. Often, union meetings are either dispersed or supervised by officers from the intelligence service. Discrimination against unionised students has also been reported.
The government relies on “security laws” to suppress any public expression of dissent. Many activists have been convicted of “propaganda against the state” and “jeopardising national security” by the Revolutionary Courts without any respect for international or Iranian fair-trial standards. While the government-backed Workers’ House or Islamic Councils consistently fail to address issues such as rights at work, privatisation, structural adjustments, low salaries and wage arrears, workers who try to organise independently are subjected to different forms of harassment, including violence, arrests, detention and potentially lengthy prison sentences. Security and intelligence forces are often present at workplaces to intimidate workers, and reports of trade unionists’ mistreatment by prison authorities are common.