Two nurses holding a placard that reads 'we have objections'

Iran cracks down on nurses protesting for better working conditions

Monday, 07/08/2024

The Islamic Republic has intensified its pressures on nurses protesting in various parts of Iran for improved working conditions and better wages.

Protesting nurses in Iran’s Mazandaran province in northern Iran have been summoned by Labor Dispute Settlement Boards for "participating in illegal gatherings" and given “10 days to present a defense,” ILNA reported Sunday.

However, the threats and summons aren’t limited to Mazandaran province, said the head of the Iranian Nursing Organization, Mohammad Sharifi Moghadam, adding that dozens of nurses have been summoned and threatened across the country.

“This has been the policy of the Ministry of Health throughout the country. About 60 nurses have been summoned in Kerman, some in Kermanshah. In different parts of the country, nurses have been summoned and threatened because of expressing their protest,” Sharifi Moghadam said.

Iran's labor law forbids the formation of trade unions and as such trade unions are not recognized in Iran.

The prohibition means that a wide range of professionals, from teachers and nurses to industrial workers, are unable to freely organize and protest against their challenging working conditions.

Defying the restrictions, Iranian nurses have been protesting for better wages and improved working conditions in recent weeks.

Nurses employed in the private sector risk "non-renewal of their contracts and termination" if they join protests. Similarly, protesting nurses working in the public sector under the Ministry of Health are often "summoned and punished by Labor Dispute Settlement Boards," ILNA said.

According to Sharifi Moghadam, despite the critical shortage of nursing staff, Iranian nurses earn a meager 200,000 rials per hour, equivalent to just 33 cents. Moreover, even this paltry salary often takes months to be paid.

“We have a shortage of nurses, and they force nurses to work overtime with an hourly wage of 200,000 rials, which is paid after six months. Nurses have no right to say that we don't want forced overtime or that we object to this illegal behavior,” Sharifi Moghadam said.

Earlier this year nurses in Kermanshah had not received their salaries for over 12 months, he said. Consequently, the nurses resorted to protests which led to them being summoned by the Labor Dispute Settlement Boards.

The nurses say the current wages are neither legal nor fair and are protesting against mandatory overtime, Sharifi Moghadam said.

The issue of low wages however isn’t just limited to nurses. Iran’s economic landscape for workers is marked by severe hardship, with annual inflation hovering above 40% for five years while wages have only risen marginally.

In March, the Iranian government announced a 35% increase in the minimum wage, raising it to 110 million rials (approximately $186) with benefits.

Despite the increment, the new minimum wage remains woefully insufficient, covering only almost half of the monthly $400 that the average household of three requires for basic food and necessities in a big city like Tehran.

The dire working conditions for Iranian nurses have led to several deaths, suicides, or migration of nurses to other countries, especially Oman.

Last month, three nurses died due to overwork. Additionally, in April, an Iranian nurse took his own life due to these harsh conditions.

Last year, Iranian MP Hossein Ali Shahriari reported that around 10,000 healthcare practitioners have left Iran over the past two years, seeking better opportunities in the Arab world.

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