Several thousand members of the Free Union of Iranian Workers went on strike Saturday against the Isfahan Steel Company, seeking higher wages and better working and living conditions. The scale and extent of the strike was significant, drawing attention even from state news agencies.
The Free Union of Iranian Workers Telegram channel disclosed that the strike unfolded as part of an ongoing protest of the steel company and its failure to meet workers' demands. Workers assembled in front of the management building following a march within the factory premises.
According to media reports, Isfahan steelworkers have been protesting inadequate living conditions and low wages, and they also are advocating for the proper implementation of a job classification plan, wage equity with other steel companies and "other related items."
Last Sunday, Isfahan steelworkers declared a hunger strike, refusing to accept the company's food in protest.
Fowad Keykhosravi, a board member of the Free Union of Iranian Workers, spoke with VOA about the strike. "Based on the reports we've received, more than 3,000 workers from various departments of the Isfahan Steel Company — including rolling, casting, converter, tall furnace, agglomeration, coke production, furnaces and other sections — took part in the strike."
He said that "in addition to its widespread participation, another source of strength for this protest movement is the involvement of workers from both the evening and night shifts, alongside their daytime counterparts."
Discussing the demands of the Isfahan steelworkers, Keykhosravi told VOA, "Their specific demands include the revision and complete implementation of the job classification plan, which has only been partially executed since 2014.
“Workers are asserting their right to wage restoration and a 30% increase before the end of 1402 [the Iranian calendar year ending on March 20], aiming to bridge a portion of the substantial wage disparity with the rising cost of living, notwithstanding the official wage hike scheduled for next year."
He said, "An increase in bonuses and other wage components, along with aligning wages with those in other steel companies, including Mobarakeh Steel, are key demands put forth by these workers."
Keykhosravi emphasized that "another factor contributing to the strength of the protest among Isfahan Steel Company workers is the formation of this large gathering following the extensive crackdown on workers' protests on February 26, 2023. This crackdown involved the deployment of a significant number of special guard forces within the company, the detention of numerous workers and the ongoing implementation of heightened security measures by the company's security personnel, coupled with recent security threats."
The Fars News Agency, associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, called the protest a “trade union gathering” and reported that "the CEO is presently engaging with the workers. The gathering does not disrupt production, as employees in specific roles continue their work."
Worker protests in different parts of Iran have notably increased in recent years, expressed through strikes, assemblies and marches. The government's attempts to quell the protests with heightened security and judicial measures have proven unsuccessful.