To: Mr Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour
Copy to: International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and all the world’s labour organisations
Protest at the membership of the Islamic Republic of Iran
and Islamic Councils of Labour in the ILO
3 February 2006
Dear Mr Juan Somavia,
I am writing to highlight once again the demand of Iranian workers for the expulsion of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Islamic Councils of Labour from the ILO. Islamic Councils and their national co-ordinating centre “Workers’ House” are state-made bodies which for over two decades have been actively taking part in the surveillance of labour activists and crushing of labour protests in Iran’s industrial workplaces. By admitting these organisations into the ILO as “workers’ representatives”, the ILO is setting itself against the workers in Iran and their rightful demand for the dissolution of these bodies and for the formation of genuine workers’ organisations.
I am sure you are well aware of the history of Islamic Councils. Nevertheless, here I would like to put before you once again the background to the formation of these organisations and their record over these years; I would like to re-state my and Iranian workers’ protest to their continued membership in the ILO.
These councils were set up following the violent suppression of workers’ protests and workers’ organisations by the Islamic Republic regime in 1984. They are led by a national co-ordinating centre called “Workers’ House”. As their name suggests, these are ideological Islamic bodies, in which, by law, only persons who are faithful to the Islamic Republic and the government of the Islamic clergy, who do not have a record of opposition to the government and whose suitability has been approved by a vetting body - appointed by the Labour Ministry and police authorities - have the right to stand to Islamic Council positions.
The Iranian Constitution explicitly instructs Islamic councils to report any ‘disturbance and unpleasant incidents’ at the workplace to the authorities concerned. Their duties have been defined as co-operating with management, raising productivity and maintaining order and discipline and Islamic morals in the workplace. Their job, in other words, is to identify and report labour activists for persecution, to harass female workers on observance of the Islamic dress code (Hejab), to sow seeds of dissension among workers on the basis of religion and gender, to control labour protests in the interest of employers and the state and to serve as the state’s organisational alternative to workers’ attempts to organise freely.
As an example, you must be aware that on 9 May 2005 high-ranking officials of Islamic Councils and Workers’ House brutally attacked a meeting of Tehran’s bus workers’ union (Vahed), using knives and carpet cutters, wounding Mansoor Ossanlou’s tongue. Mr Ossanlou, as you will know, is the head of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company, who has been imprisoned since 22 December 2005 without access to lawyers or family on account of his labour activities. Mr Ossanlou’s eye was also injured in this attack. In an interview with Towlid Monthly last month, Alireza Mahjoob, the head of the Workers’ House and himself a high ranking official of the regime, defended the attack by saying that security exists only for those who work within the law, and that if somebody whose activity is outside the law is killed that is not murder. He labels union activists as criminals and even regards using the word ‘union’ and wearing a tie as a crime.
An even clearer instance was the role of the Islamic Council of Tehran Bus Company in the recent strike by Tehran’s bus workers. According to the executive of the bus workers’ union, officials of the Islamic Council worked with the security forces by identifying the union members and activists. In this strike more than 1,000 workers were arrested; even the wives and children of the union executive were arrested and beaten. The company’s Islamic council co-operated with the regime in even denying that there was a strike.
My question is, is it not shameful that such people are recognised as representatives of Iranian workers by the ILO, while, for example, the bus workers’ union is not? Is not just this attack on the bus workers enough to show that Islamic councils are the government’s gangs in the workplace for repressing Iranian workers? Is it not shameful that a mob with such a bloody record of attacks on workers has been recognised by the ILO as representatives of Iranian workers? Are these facts not enough to expel the Islamic Republic and its Islamic Councils from the ILO?
Dear Mr Somavia,
I call on you to expel the Islamic councils and Workers’ House from the ILO and not continue to set yourself against Iranian workers. This policy of the ILO has already brought much disrepute for your organisation.
I request the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and all the world’s labour organisations to join the bus workers in Tehran, the 2,400 labour activists in Iran who last year sent a petition to the ILO in protest at its policy and all Iranian workers to exert pressure on the ILO for the expulsion of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Islamic councils from the ILO.
Co-ordinator of the International Labour Solidarity Committee of the
Worker-communist Party of Iran
International Labour Solidarity Committee of the