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).
Unions are not permitted to distribute newsletters at their workplace. The internet is fully controlled and social media is filtered by the government. Jamil Mohammadi and Jaffar Azimzadeh who collected 40,000 signatures for a petition were sentenced for 3 and 6 years imprisonment.
On 19 August 2014, nine mine workers were arrested for participating in a 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 action in Bafgh Iron Ore Mine in Yazd against the privatisation of the company, which was going to have an impact on the working conditions of the miners. The strike 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 ended with a violent intervention by riot police and the arrest and detention of the nine workers. Over 5,000 miners have downed tools in support of the detained workers who were arrested for taking part in a 40-day strike 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 at the mine in early 2014. Workers also demanded that 15 per cent of revenue from the mine should be invested in the Yazd region.
On 30 April 2014, authorities detained Messrs Jafar Azimzadeh and Jamil Mohammadi. On May Day Parvin Mohammadi and Shapour Ehsanirad were arrested. All four are officials of the Free Union of Iranian Workers. In 2013, they organised a mass petition protesting the worsening conditions of workers and were among unionists who tried to organise a May Day demonstration. Parvin Mohammadi and Shapour Ehsanirad were released, but the other two remain in ward 209 in Evin prison. A number of other unionists were summoned for interrogations and were warned not to go ahead with the May Day demonstrations in 2014 in a number of cities across the country including Kurdistan Province.
On May Day the authorities arrested 23 members of the Tehran bus workers’ union the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, including Ibrahim Madadi, before they were transferred to the notorious Evin Prison, where they were released a few hours after.
On 2 May arrests targeted several workers, trade unionists and labour activists as well as their families and associates who were attempting to assemble for a social gathering on the first weekend after 1 May.
Twelve other unionists and labour activists are currently in prison in Iran and many others are facing long-term prison sentences merely for exercising their fundamental right to associate and to organise.
Behnam Ebrahimzadeh of the Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Labour Unions (CPELU) and a child rights activist is serving five years in prison.
At least three members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organisations (CCHFWO), Messrs Yousef Ab-Kharabat, Mohammad Molanaei and Vahed Seyedeh, are serving prison terms in the Kurdistan province of Iran. Other members of the CCHFWO have been sentenced to prison terms from one to three and a half years and are appealing their sentences. They include Messrs Vafa Ghaderi, Ghaleb Hosseini Khaled Hosseini, Mohammad Karimi, Jamal Minashiri, Ghassem Mostafapour, Afshin Nadimi and Hadi Tanoumand.
At least five members of the Teachers’ Association of Iran (TAI) are now serving long-term prison sentences, namely Mahmood Bagheri (four and a half years), Rassoul Bodaghi (six years), Mohammad Davari (six years) and Mehdi Farahi-Shandiz (three years). Another member of the TAI, Abdolreza Ghabari, is serving a 15-year sentence after his death sentence for contacts with opposition groups abroad was commuted. Other leading TAI members, Messrs Ali-Akbar Baghani, Mahmoud Beheshti-Langaroudi, and Alireza Hashemi, have been sentenced to long-term imprisonment, which they have appealed.
Reza Shahabi has been in custody since June 2010 and is serving a six-year prison sentence. As a result of the brutal treatment he received when he was arrested in 2010, beatings and torture during interrogations and denial of medical treatment, Reza is suffering from a number of health problems. These include liver and kidney dysfunction, severe pain in his back, and a loss of sensation in his left leg which limits his ability to move, wash himself or even go to the toilet without help from others. In August 2012, Reza received an operation on his spine; however, contrary to doctors’ recommendations he was sent back to prison. A subsequent examination by a state medical examiner officially declared that the discs in three vertebrae of his spine were destroyed and that he should be immediately hospitalised and operated on. In October 2013, Reza was examined by specialists at the Imam Khomeini Hospital, who prescribed immediate physiotherapy and hydrotherapy outside prison. They emphasised that without this treatment, severe physical disorders including loss of sensation and disability in the left part of his body were probable.
He has now been transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran to Raja’i Shahr Prison in Karaj.
In January 2014, security forces arrested over 20 workers of the Chadormalu Mine in the central province of Yazd, including the head and the secretary of the labour union, who stopped work as part of a contract negotiation and dispute.
More than 3,000 workers have demanded a pay increase that is compatible with the inflation rate, as well as overtime pay. Bahram Hassaninejad, the Secretary of the union, was dismissed from his job during earlier protests over this issue in November 2013. The protest grew wider after Hassaninejad’s dismissal, and his return to work became another demand in addition to the pay increase and back pay back pay Wages or benefits due an employee for past employment. Often awarded when the employee has been unfairly dismissed. Not to be confused with retroactive pay (delayed payment for work previously done at a lower wage rate). .
On 26 January 2014, the Ardakan Labour Office Determination Committee confirmed Hassaninejad’s dismissal order, sparking new protests among the mine workers. On 29 January, security forces summoned and arrested 20 workers who they implied had been instrumental in launching the initial protests. The remaining workers continued their sit-in, and on 30 January, four additional workers from among those who were holding a sit-in at the factory site, Ramin Heydarjan, Behzad Talebpour, Mahmoud Dehghan, and Ahmad Nasirpour, were also arrested.
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.