Iranian sugarcane workers strike enters 29th day in defiance of clerical regime

IRANIAN sugarcane workers staged their 29th day of strike action today in a dispute over unpaid wages and a demand for their factory to be returned to the public sector.

The workers at the Haft Tappeh sugarcane factory in Shush, south-western Iran, walked out on June 12 after they had gone nearly three months without wages.

Hundreds of them have taken to the streets to protest, saying that they have been forced to “borrow” bread from bakeries.

They also blamed Iran’s clerical regime for the dire state of the economy, chanting “we are hungry” and anti-government slogans.

Workers are also pressing for improved terms and conditions and the reinstatement of trade unionists sacked for their activities at the country’s largest producer of white sugar.

During similar strikes two years ago, trade unionists were arrested and tortured by the authorities.

The Haft Tappeh factory was founded in 1961 and produced as much as 100,000 tons of sugar a year.

But it has been the site of labour unrest, firstly when a recession struck in 2006 after the tariff on sugar imports was scrapped and again when the company was privatised in 2016.

The 24,000-hectare complex was bought by businessmen Mehrdad Rostami and Omid Assadbeigi at auction for 218 billion tomans (about £40 million), around 10 per cent of the estimated value.

Since then, the plant has fallen into disrepair and ruin, amid allegations that huge amounts of money were being embezzled by the new owners.

Mr Assadbeigi is currently standing trial on charges of currency misconduct. He has admitted in court that he bribed Khuzestan province Governor Gholamreza Shariati by paying his wife $200,000.

The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations offered solidarity to the strikers and called on the government to pay the workers’ wages.

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