Employees of one of Iran’s largest steel company have joined many other steel and oil workers going on strike in solidarity with the current wave of protests.
Wednesday was the second day of strikes by the workers of Esfahan Steel Company, directly controlled by the country’s Ministry of Industries and Mines, but authorities deny the reports, saying the firm is functioning as normal. Esfahan Steel Company – or Zob Ahan -- is Iran's third largest steel producer and is the largest factory producing steel for construction.
Videos and photos on social media on Tuesday showed a large crowd of workers holding a gathering at the premises of the firm, but the Iranian government insists that there is no strike, claiming that the photos of the gathering were taken from an angle to make viewers believe they are holding a protest.
The head of the company’s public relations said that Esfahan Steel Company has about 14,000 employees, and such crowds of workers are normal during shift changes, and there have been no gatherings.
The state broadcaster even aired a video from the company, showing employees at work but people on social media say the video was recorded a few years ago and many of the workers in the video have retired.
The strikes in the country’s steel companies are important because in addition to being one of the most important materials for building and infrastructure, steel is the enabler of a wide range of manufacturing activities, widely being used in other sectors. Iranian steel exports are also an important source of revenues in hard currency.
People on social media have been calling for strikes in companies that provide raw materials for smaller businesses and merchants at Iran’s traditional markets, arguing that if they join the protests, the Islamic Republic will be crippled. Activists say if the guilds and merchants do not go on strike, they will boycott their goods and products.
Strikes are also costly in companies producing oil, gas and petrochemicals, key revenue generators for the government that directly or indirectly controls most of big businesses.
Last week, reports said employees of Iran’s Oil Ministry at dozens of oil rigs in the south had gone on strike to show anger at government mismanagement and unfair wages. According to civil rights activist, Atena Daemi, the workers of at least 37 rigs in a symbolic action refused to receive food at canteens.
Workers of several companies -- such as South Pars Gas-Condensate field, Bushehr Petrochemical Company and Hengam Petrochemical Company, Abadan Petrochemical company and refinery, Mahshahr’s refinery and Pipe Mill Plant, and Neyriz Ghadir Steel Complex as well as others in oil-producing regions on the Persian Gulf coast-- have been on strikes in solidarity with the protests across Iran, ignited by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Hundreds of striking employees have been arrested in the past few weeks while many are threatened with being fired or replaced by other workers, notably Chinese workers, if they do not break their strikes.
Wednesday was also the second day of a three-day protest to mark the third anniversary of ‘Bloody November’ in 2019, when the government killed at least 1,500 protesters.