After decades of fighting, and paying a heavy price for their struggle, the workers of Saaveh Rolled Tubes and Profile finally won their case and forced the authorities to classify the Saaveh workshops as hazardous.
Between 2001 and 2003, Saaveh Rolled Tubes and Profiles reached its production capacity, allowing the factory to export 90 percent of its product to other countries in Asia and Europe. The Saaveh factories’ products became Iran’s largest export after oil products. This volume of exports, and the astronomical profits — a result of twin factors: being paid in hard currency cash, and paying workers semi-slavery wages — enabled the owners to open new factories in Mash’had and Tehran in Iran, as well as in England and Germany.
The recent victory of the workers did not come easy. In 1996, workers of the factory protested the workshops’ inhumane and dangerous conditions, which have led to many workplace-related deaths, external and internal injuries, and fatal illnesses. Workers clearly and loudly demanded their own organization (1), and investment in safety, technical, and other improvements. Twelve representatives were elected by the workers’ assembly to relay the workers’ demands to the owners. All twelve were fired the following day!
In 2006, after several months of struggle, workers of Saaveh Rolled Tubes and Profiles once again petitioned for changes. Twelve hundred signatures were collected, and this time 2 representatives were elected to discuss the workers’ issues, including the formation of the workers’ own organization, with the owners and authorities. These representatives, along with 300 protesting workers, were immediately fired by the factory owners with the assistance of Saaveh’s labor institute.
But despite all such defeats and crackdowns, the workers of Saaveh Rolled Tubes and Profiles did not give up and instead continued their protest against workplace conditions and the violation of their legal and humane rights. They have now succeeded in forcing the authorities to classify as hazardous the 23 enormous workshops of Saaveh Rolled Tubes and Profiles – workplaces characterized by noise greater than 85 decibels; heat greater that 500 C in some locations; chemicals, metal dust, and lead vapour in the air; and a total absence of safety measures.
This is a great victory, but the struggle is not concluded yet. The owner continues to resist: through intimidation and threats, as well as moving shifts and workers from one department to another, he tries to avoid giving in to the workers’ demands.
Shapour Ehsaani-raad, the expelled representative of the workers of Saaveh Rolled Tubes and Profiles, who has written a report on three and a half decades of Saaveh workers’ struggle, ensures that his colleagues shall certainly overcome and put the owners and their associates in their places.
(1) In Iran, there are Islamic workers’ councils that are formed by the Islamic government in order to preclude independent worker organization and action.