National Iranian Drilling Company workers staging a protest in the southern city of Ahvaz

Contract Oil Workers Protest Over Wage Discrimination in Iran

Monday, 06/10/2024

Contract workers from key Iranian oil and gas companies in the south continue to protest against wage discrimination and dismal working conditions at their respective enterprises.

Workers from Gachsaran Oil and Gas Producing Company and the National Iranian Drilling Company last week demanded an end to the “unjust wage system discrimination” and are calling for “equitable treatment for all”. Sporadic strikes and protests continue.

“Oil Ministry officials, who are full-time employees with permanent contracts, are clearly prioritizing their own interests and showing complete indifference towards contract employees. This stark disparity in treatment raises the question, is this fair?” reported the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) on Friday.

In recent years, Iran's oil and gas sector has replaced thousands of regular employees with contract workers who endure harsh conditions and low pay.

"The Ministry of Oil officials should be held accountable. How is it that official employees are paid promptly, but contract employees, who constitute the majority of this industry, remain unpaid?" a protesting worker told ILNA.

In February, workers were given assurances that the Job Classification Act (JCA) would be implemented and that they would receive their salaries based on it by May. However, this promise has not been fulfilled. The absence of job classifications means that workers can be trapped in precarious temporary positions for years, with varying pay rates, even for the same work.

The JCA does not cover the majority of wage earners in Iran, leaving their jobs unclassified, which has become the status quo.

The protesters seek amendments to the productivity bonus calculation formula to match that of fixed-term employees and revisions to the overtime calculation formula based on the Labor Law.

Not only tens of thousands of workers are hired on temporary and ad-hoc contracts, many segments of the oil industry have been handed to "private" contractors with government connections, who often simply ignore the law.

In March, there were calls for the impeachment of Iran’s Labor Minister due to concerns over the country’s minimum wage, which was set at approximately 110 million rials per month (about $175 US), falling far short of covering 60% of household living costs.

These protests underscore the increasing frequency of workers' demonstrations in Iran, signaling growing discontent within the labor force. Over the past three decades, there have been thousands of spontaneous protests, strikes, sit-ins, and work stoppages across various economic sectors.

Iran has experienced no economic growth for more than a decade. The US withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposition of economic sanctions, further aggravated the situation. Over the past six years, Iran's national currency, the rial, has fallen 15-fold, resulting in inflation and poverty for millions of Iranians.

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