A call for support and solidarity with Haft Tapeh workers
(English translation of Ali Nejatiís second Open letter to all workers-Dated November 7, 2009)
As of today four members of the board of directorsí of ďHaft Tapeh Sugarcane Workersí SyndicateĒ by names of Feriadon Nikofard, Jalil Ahmadi, Ghorban Alipour, and Mohammad Haidari have been sent to jail and are currently incarcerated in Dezfol prison. In a few days the judicial system will also impose my prison sentence.
We have struggled to: secure our rights defend Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Workersí honorable rights, to obtain most basic living resources, and human rights, but we are condemned and incarcerated.
In the past few days we have written an open letter to International Labor Organization, and sent a copy of it to workerís organizations, human rights institutions and the media. We know that they are aware of the injustices imposed on Iranian workers. We know there is no one but workers themselves who can institute justice. But we went to the final step and asked all of them, are you uninformed? Are you going to do anything? We are aware that it will not result in effective actions on their part. We are aware that creation of workers autonomous organizations is workersí inalienable right.
While employers are entitled to freely have their organizations, workers who start their independent organizations are condemned and incarcerated. We believe that only through workersí own initiatives, with unity and solidarity amongst us, we will be able to achieve our goals and demands.
I and my colleagues at Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Workersí Syndicate will be incarcerated for six months. During the past eight months since I was expelled from work, there were more than a few workers that besides giving me moral and spiritual support, to the extent that it was possible for them, also financially supported me. Although these amounts were far less that the wage I used to earn, but for me it was worth a thousand times more than any other assistance, because it demonstrated that workers were well aware that my co-workers and I were fighting to defend their rights. For this very reason, and based on my belief, the only help I received was from workers. Though the total amount was less than enough to support even my previous level of living, but it was highly valuable.
Such assistance made me indebted to my working class colleagues, instead of my relying on any other institutions, persons or places. We hope that this working class tradition become a common practice amongst all workers.
Until I was the only one expelled, the assistance from my co-workers was sufficient, but today in addition to me there are four other workers who are being deprived from receiving their wages. Many friends have asked how could other workers, - who donít have face to face contact with the families of these five incarcerated workers-, express their solidarity by giving their financial aid to the families of the imprisoned workers.
Today at 11:45 AM, before two more of my friends were sent to court and jail, in the last contact with them, and in agreement with them and other co-workers, we all reached a consensus that a bank account under my name shall be established, so all financial aid from workers could be deposited there, and through that financial assistance will be provided to imprisoned workersí families. (The account number will soon be publicly announced).
Now is the time to support workers who have struggled for workersí rights at Haft Tapeh, and were elected by Sugarcane workers to represent them in an independent organization, and today are sentenced to prison terms only because of defending their labor rights. Without a doubt, tomorrow and afterward when we are not in prison, we also will take part in this endeavor.
My advance gratitude to Haft Tapeh workers and all other workers for their support; I hope that through our unity and solidarity for creations of independent workersí organizations, we will achieve our righteous goals and demands.
Hoping for workers unity
President of the board of directors of the Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Company
Saturday 16th of month of Abban, year 1388
November 7, 2009
Please contact me directly with this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: syndica haft tapeh <email@example.com>
Date: Oct 30, 2009 1:25 PM
Subject: letter to ILO from Haft Tape - syndicate - Iran-....ILO š«„Ś ی ė«—ź—«š Ś› ĀŚ »Ś
Dear Sir / Madam
Hereby kindly you can find attached the letter of the "Syndicate of workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company" to ILO.
in this letter we have asked ILO whether they are aware of what happening to Iranian workers ,and haft tape ( khuzestan province ) as well ,Whether they are aware of what happening to the independent workers organizations in Iran or not? And is ILO going to take any effective action against Iranian authorities?
please forward this letter to : labour organizations, human rights groups and media
For more information or any correspondence with our Haft Tapeh Workersí Syndicate in future, please email us directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
director of board, Syndicate of the workers of haft tape sugar cane company.
To: International Labour Organization (ILO)
From: The Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company
Cc: Labour organizations, Human rights groups and media
Subject: Appeal for actions to prevent the Government of Iran from violating Conventions 98 and 87
We, workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company, have faced continuing violation of our rights and demands, including non-payments of our wages for several months, in addition to the concerted efforts by the employer to cease sugar cane plantation and eventually closing down the factory and privatizing the company. We workers of Haft Tapeh are foreseeing mass layoffs. They have already stopped paying us for our over-time work.
Workers organized protests and rallies from 2006 to 2009, and through peaceful means complained to legal authorities about the situation; however, all this did not achieve any results and our delayed wages were not paid and even some workers were persecuted. The Islamic Labour Council, which is a sham ďworkerĒ organization affiliated to the government and the employer has done nothing to help achieve our rights. Other places are facing similar situation.
Having said the above, the main reason for writing this to you is as follows:
In October 2008, Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane workers organized their general assembly and elected their representatives under the name of the Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company (Sandikaa-ye Kargaran-e Sherkat-e Neyshekar-e Haft Tapeh). In addition to a number of national and international laws, we also referred to the ILO conventions 98 and 87.
We believe that we have every right to form our independent labour organization. Accordingly, 9 workers were elected as representatives of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane workers in a general election by workers. This was the first time in more than four decades that thousands of workers participated freely and enthusiastically in an election to choose their own representatives.
Unfortunately, both before and after our election, we, the representatives of four thousand workers and other members of the board of directors of the Syndicate, were arrested, jailed and interrogated numerous times; our families have been under pressure and were persecuted by the intelligence forces. We were taken to the court recurrently using allegations like ďaction against national security ďagainst us. The president of our board of directors, Ali Nejati, was incarcerated in a solitary confinement for about 40 days and was subjected to constant interrogation and mistreatment. Finally, Mr. Nejati was fired from work in March 2009 by the intelligence office and the companyí security department.
The court has issued one year imprisonment (which has been divided into 6 months of incarceration and 6 months of suspended imprisonment) and other fines and social restrictions against five members of the Haft Tapeh Workers Syndicateís board of directors, Ali Nejati, Jalil Ahmadi, Feridoun Nikoufard, Ghorban Alipour and Mohammad Heydari mehr. Subsequently, they were also banned from working for the company.
The following explanations have been given in their court orders for the above sentences:
ďActing against national security through the formation of a syndicate outside the lawĒ!
We are asking the International Labour Organization:
- Is the Iranian government permissible to violating fundamental conventions like 98 and 87?
- Isnít the Iranian government a permanent member of the ILO?
- Has the Iranian government ever been held accountable for its actions?
- Why are workers being jailed, fired, persecuted, interrogated and tortured for creating their own independent trade organizations?
- Shouldnít the Iranian government be accountable for its repressive actions against the representatives of the Vahed Workersí Syndicate including Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi over and above the Haft Tapeh workersí representatives?
- Shouldnít the Iranian government be told that it cannot imprison workers (over 150 in Tehran May Day event) for organizing a peaceful commemoration of the International Workersí Day? That they must not put on trial, flog or jail workers for celebrating the May Day, (for instance Mahmoud Salehi who was jailed for one year)?
- Is the ILO aware of the government actions against teachersí representatives and the Iranian Teachersí Trade Association? Ö And so on and so forth.
We, workers and members of the board of directors of the Haft Tapeh Workersí Syndicate, are writing this letter while the police is involved in intimidating and terrorizing our families. The police have been acting, in our cities of Shoush, Haft Tapeh and Andimeshk, as though we are criminals and fugitives. We are writing this while awaiting to be arrested and sent to prison for the above unjust sentences; and while our names have been put on the companyís entrance as offenders that are not allowed to enter the workplace. If we go to our work the police will arrest us and that will give them another excuse to further penalize us. It is very strange that if we go to work they arrest us and if we donít theyíll treat us as absentees which would justify sacking us altogether which would lead to our arrest and imprisonment. This vicious cycle has been orchestrated in a way that at the end of the day we will be both sacked and imprisoned. Thus, we donít know when youíre going to be reading this letter whether we would be in jail or not.
Nevertheless, we are hoping that you will be pressuring the Iranian government to respect some of the most basic rights of Haft Tapeh workers and workers across Iran including the freedom to form workersí independent organizations.
We are not afraid of any consequences for ourselves in the path that we have chosen for the achievement of our rights, but we are hoping that, in jail, we would hear that the ILO has taken all necessary measures concerning the inhumane actions of the Iranian government and the violations of conventions 98 and 87. We will anticipate to hearing about your actions in this regard.
Should workers pin any hope on the ILO?
We, and many workers in Iran, will look forward to seeing an actual outcome of your effort.
Will ever any effective action be taken?!!
The Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company†
(stamped and signed by :††††† )
Ali Nejati, President of the Board of Directors
Feridoun Nikoufard, the Vice-President of the Board of Directors
Jalil Ahmadi, member of the Board of Directors and representative on industry affairs
Reza Rakhshan, member of the Board of Directors and Responsible for Public Relations and Education
Haft Tapeh, Shoush, Khozestan Province, Iran