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May Day and Iranian Women Workers

Greetings to all workers, especially women, to women heads of teacher's protesthousehold, teachers, nurses and all workers of Iran, on the occasion of May Day, International Workers’ Day, the day the workers of the world express their solidarity in their struggle against exploitation, and the ravages of capitalism and injustice. May Day is the day of commemorating the heroic struggle of the textile workers of Chicago (1886), and one which was assigned the Day of the Worker by the second congress of the Internationale in 1889. This day is a public holiday in many countries in the world, and for this reason, workers celebrate it magnificently, according to their circumstances and renew their commitment to their common struggle against inequality, exploitation, war and injustice.
In Iran, however, this day has not been recognized as a public holiday and the Islamic Republic regime, fearful of May Day demonstrations, prevents it with an iron fist. Despite this, each year, on the eve of May Day, workers’ demands and problems find expression in one way or another, and the regime’s reactionary laws which are aimed at giving a free hand to capitalists in their exploitation of the country’s workers and poor, are exposed.
This year, too, as May Day approached we witnessed the increasing protests of teachers and nurses, disturb the regime’s peace. In these protests, the workers carried placards, demanding ‘minimum wage: 712,000 Toomans (£137), basket of goods: 3,500,000 Toomans (£673)”; “workers, nurses Unite”, “End poverty and Destitution”; “Living Wage is our Right”; “Sentence of Lashes on Workers is a Return to Barbarity”; “Free Imprisoned Workers”. The regime that has imposed untold hardship on our people by its pursuit of Neo-liberal economic policies and has imposed countless perverse social conditions on our people, answers these protests with suppression and arrest of the civil and workers rights activists. The regime’s sex discrimination, alongside class exploitation and unequal civil and human rights, has brought the massive section of this vulnerable section of our people to below the poverty line and has plunged them and their families into serious social and other difficulties.

The Condition of Women Workers and Heads of HouseholdghaiemShahr_zanan_12_20
The neo-liberal economic policy of the regime continues to exert back breaking pressures on the workers and all working poor in general; among these the condition of women workers and working poor, whether they are self-supporting or are head of households or who live with an abusive head of household, their condition is by far worse and their chances of earning a living wage are far more difficult than the equivalent for their male counterparts.

This is because sex discrimination is instrumental in driving women into poverty. As the policy of removing women from employment is implemented and they are denied equal employment opportunities as men, and as the policy of workforce ‘restructuring’ has led to the unbridled dismissal of women from their jobs, a large section of the women who have been made unemployed, are forced to take jobs in the informal sector (if any are available) with the lowest pay, with no protection by law. The prospect of losing their pay puts women under ever-greater pressure to give in to their employers’ exploitation. According to official statistics there are 1.6 million women heads of household, however, the real figure is far greater given the fact that the official figures often do not record women’s work. Work in smaller workshops with 10 (or fewer) employees which are not regulated, domestic work, furnace bakeries, selling items in the Metro and on City roads and rural areas are the places where women find work, either because they are without enough literacy or skills to find work elsewhere or because of the lack of opportunities for other jobs, in comparison with men. In larger cities, there are a large number of educated women who work in this informal sector. According to statistics, the percentage of educated women in rural areas is 62%, while the figure is 82% in urban areas. As poverty has taken hold, the number of villagers migrating from rural areas to cities has increased. Selling things by the roadside has become one of the means of earning a living for women on the edges of the cities. As an example, 33% of the stall-holders (the term is used loosely – as these sellers spread their goods on a cloth by the roadside and do not have a stall) in the city of Mashad are women.
Now that Rohani’s self-proclaimed government of ‘wisdom and hope’ is attempting to change Articles 7 and 21 of the Labour Law in order to leave the dismissal of workers solely at the discretion of the employer, we can expect a further rise in the numbers in the informal sector. In addition to other insecurities, those in the informal sector have no insurance. The statistics of workers with insurance are alarming: 81% of the insured are men and 19% women (statistics from Deputy Labour Minister cited in Mehr Agency 22.04.2015). Very low wages, working in unhealthy working conditions, lack of safety equipment and facilities, absence of a culture of acceptance of women’s contribution in the workplace, lack of education, specialism and familiarity with employment laws, have all made women more vulnerable to dismissal and unemployment.
Some state officials, such as Ms. Molaverdi or the Deputy of the Labour Minister concede that women’s condition is difficult and that they are vulnerable; but acknowledging these problems is not enough. What is needed is a practical plan that would run counter the policies of the Vali-e-Faquih, the Supreme Religious Leader, and as such it would fall under the red lines that executives such as Hassan Rohani neither want nor can withstand.
This is how the misogynist state officials including those in the Islamic Parliament, follow the orders of their Supreme Leader and instead of passing laws that protect women and their right to employment, they create new obstacles by proposing the bill for the protection of women’s ‘decency’ in employment and has seen fit to limit women’s employment so that there is no interaction with men and so that they are in normal hours (8 am – 10 pm). According to the bill, if the production unit requires its female workforce to work overnight it will have to apply for license from the Security Forces office. It is important to note that Iran is a signatory of the World Labour Organisation and as such is bound by its Article 111 that there should be no discrimination against women.
In addition to Articles 7 and 21 of the Labour Law which makes it ever easier for employers to dismiss women employees, the regime’s other anti-employment policies for women, including the insistence on child bearing, reduction of hours of work, increase in maternity leave, all of which may appear to be in favour of women, but due to the absence of any social welfare services, they disadvantage women evermore, and puts them in the frontline of dismissals.
MaZanan May Day Greetings Part 1

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