Speech by Mansour Osanloo of Tehran Bus Workers Syndicate

Excerpts from a speech made by Mansour Osanloo, the leader of the Tehran Bus Workers Syndicate, to the International Trade Union Confederation in Brussels, Belgium in June 2007. Upon his return to Iran, he was abducted and imprisoned. He has been in prison since then.

Excerpts from a speech made by Mansour Osanloo, the leader of the Tehran Bus Workers Syndicate, to the International Trade Union Confederation in Brussels, Belgium in June 2007. The Persian original was posted on the Syndicate’s website www.syndicavahed.info/.

Translated by Frieda Afary

Translator’s Note:
On July 10, Mansour Osanloo, the leader of the Tehran Bus Workers’ Syndicate was abducted by plainclothes Iranian government agents and later found at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. Despite severe health problems he has been held in prison since that date.

In 2004, Tehran’s bus workers attempted to reactivate their union which had been disbanded after the 1979 revolution. This was the first effort by Iranian workers to launch an independent trade union after the Islamic Republic had banned workers’ independent trade unions created during the 1979 revolution and had replaced them with state sponsored “Islamic Labor Councils” and the “House of Labor.”

In December 2005, 3000 members of the officially unrecognized Syndicate went on strike to demand better pay. Since then Osanloo and other Syndicate members as well as their families have been viciously beaten, intermittently arrested and continually harassed by the Iranian government.

Sisters and Brothers:

It is my pleasure to address the ITUC congress today as a representative of Iranian workers and the Syndicate of the Workers of the United Bus Company in particular.

According to article 26 of the Iranian Constitution our union is legitimate. However, our government has not recognized our union since its reactivation in 2005. We are grateful for the recognition granted to our union by the International Federation of Transport Workers and also for the support of union associated with ITUC and global unions.

As I am speaking to you today, 40 members of our Syndicate have been unjustly fired by the company’s administration for their union activities in defense of workers’ rights. Therefore, we ask for your support in demanding that they be given back their jobs and assisted in overcoming this pain and suffering.

It took us seven years to build the foundation of our Syndicate. We regularly held Syndicate classes on weekends and discussed International Labor Union (ILU) documents about workers’ rights. We discussed working conditions based on the situation of the workers. Some cases concerned health and safety, long working hours and the administration’s corruption. This struggle may not be unlike climbing a mountain. If you rush, you run out of breath but if you do not proceed with strength and discipline, you will never achieve the goal.

I could not have spoken in Brussels at a better time. I welcome the report prepared by the Free Association Cmte. Of the ILU . . . .In this report, it has been stressed that the “House of Labor” could not follow through on the demands of the bus drives. This is not surprising considering that the “House of Labor” and Islamic Labor Councils had been created by the government for the principal role of watching workers at the workers, and not defending them!

It is not only the Bus Company workers and their families in Tehran who suffer from this system. The government is now discussing the plan to privatize over 80% of industrial companies, including banks, the media, transporation and mines. These are currently managed by the government. This is a revision of the economic “principles” that are clearly stated in the Constitution. This will increase the gap between poor and rich. The poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer.

That is why we have witnessed protests in the oil industry, among teachers, in the textile industry, food industry, construction and transportation. Even the unemployed workes and women have joned the protesters.

Worst of all are the revisions in the labor laws that will legitimize firing workers and paying lower wages to temporary workers. This revision will leave the door open for firing permanent workers and replacing them with temporary workers. Workers hired by companies that employ fewer than 10, will no longer be covered by the labor law.

Even now, many workers have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate is very high. Some unemployed workers have resorted to becoming street vendors, smuggling drugs or selling their children to human traffickers for $150 U.S. dollars out of desperation or because of drug addiction. I know that this is unbelievable. But I myself have seen such a case.

That is why our aim is to rebuild a wider workers’ movement in Iran and not only a movement of the Bus Company workers of Tehran. We hope to start a nationwide federation of unions. As I am speaking to you now, I can say that in different sectors such as construction, painting, baking and even some sectors of large industry, workers are in the process of creating free and independent organizations of their own. Thanks to the support you have given our labor movement, Iranian workers have learned how to organize free and democratic associations, and realize how international labor solidarity will make them stronger and immune to violations. In reality we attempted to start this struggle without basic preconditions such as a meeting place and other material and technical-organizational preconditions. We lost our meeting place and have paid a price for it. In order to expand our union activities, we need your support to obtain computers, other technical instruments, a union office and educational and instructional materials.

In this path, some of us have gone to prison. The imprisoned comrades and their families need any kind of humanitarian and financial and technical support. In fact, we are asking you not to deprive us of your support and solidarity as workers in this struggle against suppression. This support will give us greater strength to withstand to reach our goal. We will be grateful for your support.

I want to thank the secretary general of the ITU. If you had not so quickly acted during the December 2005 Christmas holiday when I was arrested for the first time, our situation would not have received the international support that it has received up to now.

We look forward to your continuing solidarity with our struggles as we step forward in this path. . . I feel confident and strong because I know that the international labor union movement is behind me. Iranian authorities know this as well. Instead, we will remain an inspiration as part of the international labor union movement for global peace and justice.

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