A view from Tehran’s bazaar (March 2024)

Iranian Workers Left Hanging As Talks On Minimum Wage Stall

Friday, 03/15/2024

Negotiations to determine the minimum wage have stalled, leaving workers dangling about their future just five days before the Iranian New Year.

Mehdi Bagheri, the workers’ representative in Iran’s Supreme Council of Labor, said the council’s meeting on Wednesday failed to reach a final decision regarding the minimum wage as both the representatives of employers and the government do not “appreciate” workers and their efforts.

“We do not have much time to decide on the most important issue for workers and we are not the plaything of any group,” Bagheri stressed, further accusing the government and employers of manipulating statistics in an attempt to lower the worker’s minimum wage.

“I’ll make it clear that our job in the Supreme Council is to raise the living standards of the workers, not playing mathematical games,” he went on to say.

According to Bagheri, the other sides of negotiations try to avoid discussing the monthly livelihood basket for working families as they are aware that any accurate calculation of this component will result in a significant increase in workers’ wages.

Meanwhile, Nader Moradi, workers and retirees’ union activist, took the government to task for resisting even the minimal demands of the workers for wage determination.

The workers proposed a minimal rate of 195 million rials ($325) but the government keeps rejecting it, Moradi said, further adding, “If we take into account such items as housing and education, the minimum livelihood basket [base salary] for working families stands at 300 million rials (around $500).”

According to the activist, the government’s stance on the issue is shocking and unfathomable as just renting a house in the capital Tehran costs 100 to 120 million rials (165 to 200$).

Moradi also revealed that Iran’s Ministry of Health has backed the government’s position during the wage determination talks by proposing “a food basket” package which has significantly decreased the calorie needs of each person.

“With the government’s proposed calories, workers can’t live and breathe, let alone going to work or doing manual or intellectual labor for at least eight hours a day,” he pointed out.

On Tuesday, Ali Babaei, the spokesperson for the Labor Faction in the Iranian parliament, emphasized the need for fair wages for workers amidst dire economic challenges. He noted that workers are oppressed, their rights are often denied, and their job security remains uncertain.

In recent years, Iranian society has been grappling with severe economic problems. The continuous devaluation of the rial, particularly since the US withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018, has fueled inflation and plunged millions into poverty. Over the past six years, the rial has fallen 15-fold.

Official annual inflation hovers near 50 percent, much higher than the government’s average salary increase of 20 percent. Earlier in the month, Eqtesad 24 daily warned that nearly one-third of Iranians struggle below the poverty line. The report projected a concerning escalation in poverty rates, foreseeing that by the end of the year 1402 [March 20], the proportion of individuals below the poverty line could soar to as much as 40 percent.

An analysis of posts on Persian social media indicate that Iranians voice deep concern on a daily basis on social media about inflation and rising rents, mainly struggling to pay rent, especially in the capital, Tehran.

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