Tehran municipality used 700 police buses and IRGC drivers to transport passengers for free in the capital Tehran as bus drivers’ strike entered its second day.
The semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported Tuesday that the police were using around 700 of the buses used for transportation of its own staff to replace the city buses on strike.
Social media users on Monday, when the strike began, also reported that Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) vans were also used to transport passengers in the capital and IRGC drivers on Monday evening were given urgent training to drive the city buses, but so far these have not been used. An informed source told Didehban-e Iran Tuesday that Tehran municipality has called for qualified drivers from among its other staff for help to break the strike.
The use of IRGC drivers could anger dissatisfied workers that have been on strike or protestting in many sectors of the economy, including oil and gas production.
Bus drivers’ strike over unpaid wages and raises created chaos across Tehran Tuesday amid fears of anti-government protests in the capital. Mechanics and other workers of bus terminals have joined the drivers’ strike according to social media reports.
The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC) said in an Instagram post Tuesday that the police forced strikers who had gathered at some bus terminals to leave. At least twelve drivers were arrested Tuesday and several others arrested Monday, including Vahid Fereydouni, one of the union’s activists, who is still being held by the police.
The drivers have vowed to continue their strike until their demands, including payment of overdue wages and a 57 percent raise approved by the Supreme Labor Council more than two months ago, are met. The Tehran Municipality, apparently, wants to increase the wages by only 10 percent.
Mayor Alireza Zakani met with strikers Monday but failed to convince them to end their strike. Zakani told the strikers that a six-member committee was still discussing the pay rise, and nothing had been decided.
Fars news agency which is linked to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) reported Tuesday that some of the protesting drivers left after Zakani’s talk but others who chanted slogans insisted on staying. “The rally of the remaining protesters ended with police interference,” Fars reported Tuesdays.
Strikers have also called on other municipality workers including workers of Tehran Metro (subway) and fire fighters to support their strike. The pay rise that the municipality is still refusing to pay affects other municipality workers’ salaries too, they say.
The government announced Monday evening that all its offices and schools would be closed Tuesday due to dangerous levels of dust and air pollution but many on social media say the closure has nothing to do with air pollution which is a common occurrence and does not shut down the city.
The government apparently used the air pollution excuse not only to announce a closure in Tehran but also other areas of the country including some western and southwestern regions where anti-government protests have been taking place in the past two weeks. On many other occasions in the past no shut down was announced despite similarly high levels of dust and pollution.
“The blow that the bus drivers’ strike has caused to the government is incredible,” a tweet Tuesday said. “A seemingly unassuming yet united strike has forced the government to shut down the capital.”