by Amina Saddiq
In a solid display of working-class solidarity, an international day of trade union action was organised on 15 February in support of the Iranian bus workers.
Road transport unions in Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, the Tunisian rail workers’ and maritime unions and the petrochemical union in Jordan all held actions. In Iraq, members of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (formerly the IFTU) delivered a letter of protest and demonstrated in front of the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. Actions were organised by unions in Austria, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Thailand, the US and in the UK, where 70 activists demonstrated outside the Iranian embassy in London.
The Iranian government is trying to crush the first independent trade union for 25 years.
Thirteen hundred members of the Sandikaye Kargarane Sherkat-e Vahed, the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company union, were arrested along with a number of their supporters during a strike on 28 January. Teargas and batons were used against them. Workers were protesting against the imprisonment of the union’s leader Mansour Ossanlou on 22 December last year on trumped up charges. Most were released last week, but eight committee members, including Ossanlou, remain in prison.
Hamid Taqvaee from the Worker-communist Party of Iran (www.wpiran.org) said: “The designation of 15 February by world trade unions as a day of action in support of Vahed bus workers is a magnificent example of workers’ world unity. The Islamic Republic brutally attacked the bus workers and smashed their strike, but it not only failed to silence their struggle, it raised it into an international arena. Now the demands of the bus workers are being voiced by millions of workers around the globe!”
Saeed Arman from the Worker-communist Party of Iran-Hekmatist (www.hekmatist.com) commented: “Naked aggression, intimidation, imprisonment and the harassment of the workers’ families have not subdued the resolve of the bus workers. The Islamic Republic has resorted to its familiar tactic of creating and fuelling external crises to divert public opinion and flag up a pretext to suppress its opponents at home. The bus workers have selflessly and bravely taken on the Islamic Republic. It is now incumbent upon all revolutionaries and labour movement organisations to redouble our efforts to secure their release.”
Iranian revolutionaries are demanding:
• Recognition of trade union rights in Iran;
• The release Mansoor Ossanlou and all detained trade unionists;
• For the Sherkat-e Vahed management to respect trade union rights;
• Collective agreement at Sherkat-e Vahed;
• Full payment of wage arrears to the Vahed workers.
The 17, 000 workers of the state-owned Vahed bus company have been battling the management and authorities since last year for the recognition of their union and the introduction of collective bargaining. Last May a meeting of the union was viciously attacked by members of the state-run “Workers’ House and Islamic Council of Labour”, resulting in many injuries. The government is refusing to recognise the workers’ union and meet their demands.
The left in Britain and internationally should be very clear. This is a struggle not just for the Vahed bus workers, but for all Iranian workers. While it makes some sense for the workers themselves to stress the economic character of their demands, there is no excuse for British socialists to fudge opposition to the Iranian regime.
Socialist Worker in particular has emphasised the threat of a US attack on Iran while failing to give explicit support to revolution against the Islamic Republic — as if Iranian workers have no right to solidarity unless they oppose war! We should of course resist Bush’s sabre-rattling — but the main enemy is at home whether you live in Washington, London, or Tehran.