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Ahwaz sugar workers reduced to slavery and poverty

Workers from the Ahwaz Sugar Refinery this week staged protests over months of unpaid wages as an unemployment crisis grips the region.

Employees and their families clashed with police outside the offices of the provincial governor as they demanded salaries, compensation for lost earnings and payment of their national insurance, health and pension contributions that the management has refused to pay to the Social Security Department.

While the Iranian government is keen to blame the country's woes on international sanctions, the company's long legacy of poor management and years of unpaid loans led to bankruptcy and mass redundancies. Meetings between workers and management, brokered by the provincial governor, have achieved no resolution to the dispute.

Led by Iraj Emani, the sugar refinery's trade union has been in dispute with the management for over two years, previously staging a protest against unpaid wages and lay-offs in March. Many of the employees have been working for the company for over 20 years and on top of poverty have found they have no healthcare cover.

Director of the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network Daniel Brett said: "The indifference of the management and the government towards Ahwazi workers enduring job insecurity demonstrates the callous disregard the regime has for the inhabitants of this region. In many companies, workers are expected to put up with hardship caused by irregular payment of wages by managers whose corruption is tolerated by their political benefactors. Workers have little recourse for action as trade union activity is heavily restricted in Iran and union leaders are subjected to harassment, intimidation and imprisonment."