Iran’s Railway Workers Stage Strike

After World War I the 850-mile Iran National railroad was constructed. The railway building project started in 1927 and completed in 1938. The railroad went through high mountains and hostile desert regions of the country and linked southern and northern Iran. For the first time, the northern agricultural lands and the Caspian Sea ports were linked to ports and oilfields in the south thanks to railway workers.

In Iran, Railway work is a very hard job. Railroad workers ranged from unskilled freight handlers to locomotive engineers to those who build and repair the rolling stock, work round the clock to ensure that passenger and freight trains run on time and travel safely.

Some workers drive trains, some coordinate the activities of the trains, while others operate signals and switches. The Railyard engineers and conductors and yardmasters have higher rates of work-related injuries than most occupations.

railroad workers protest
railroad workers protest

Trains are scheduled to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, meaning that many railroad workers sometimes work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Railyard workers must move heavy equipment around and climb up and down equipment, which can be dangerous.

Locomotive engineers and conductors whose trains travel long routes can be away from home for long periods of time. Those who work on passenger trains with short routes generally have a more predictable schedule. Workers on some freight trains have irregular schedules.

Railyard engineers spend most of their time working outside, regardless of weather conditions.

Iranian Regime Not Paying Workers

However, in recent weeks, after not having received their wages for months and having received no answer from the Iranian regime’s authorities, strikes and protests by railroad workers in different regions of Iran have intensified.

On Thursday Feb.14,2019, nearly 600 railroad workers in Marand, Jolfa and Ajab Shir in Azerbaijan province held demonstrations in protest to not receiving their salaries.

The railway workers are also faced with insurance problems and poor yearly bonuses in addition to not receiving their salaries on time.

Another problem is that contracts are becoming smaller and smaller. Currently, many of the railroad workers are on 15-day contracts, which is without precedent. As the duration of contracts become reduced, the work conditions of the workers deteriorate. Under such circumstances, job security has no meaning.

railroad workers protest in mashhad
Railroad workers protest in Mashhad

The Iranian regime recently retired 400 worn-out wagons from its railroad systems and has no plans to replace them. This will endanger the jobs of 3,000 hospitality workers, electricians, and repair workers.

Elsewhere, the train wagon factory of Arak is slowly inching toward being shut down and its workers are joining the ranks of millions of unemployed Iranians. And Iran’s transportation problems remain unsolved as the Iranian regime continues to squander the country’s wealth on fueling conflicts and violence in other Middle East countries and filling the pockets of its terrorist proxies like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen.

Lives of Iran’s Railway Workers Collapse

The railroad workers of Iran are struggling to make ends meet and provide the most basic needs for their families. In some cases, they’re forced to borrow from friends and family to buy their basic necessities.

Iranian regime officials have become used to seeing people being deprived of their salaries, the workers say. No one is being held to account for the miseries they are enduring. “The workers’ stomachs won’t be filled with empty promises. We will not remain silent,” one of the Iranian railroad workers said.

damghan railway workers protest
Damghan railway workers stopped working and protested against the non-payment of salaries.

Iranian Railroad Workers in Azerbaijan Strike, Protest

Railroad workers in Tabriz and Ajab Shir began strikes on February 12 and have continued until now. These workers have not received their salaries and bonuses since the last Persian New Year (March 2018) as well as compensation for their extra work hours.

In their demonstration, the workers were holding banners that read: “Workers are ashamed of their spouses and children being hungry and of their debts to others.” The workers were demanding regime officials to respond to their demands and to hold Travers, the contractor company that has withheld their salaries, to account.

Railroad Workers in Southern Iran Strike and Protest

On February 4, workers of the Zagros railroad project in Andimeshk, Khuzestan province, held demonstrations to protest three months unpaid wages.

The workers of Khuzestan’s railroad have been regularly protesting because of poor work conditions and unpaid salaries. In July, the workers held protests to months-overdue wages, but again, regime officials only gave promises that were later neglected.

Labor protests and demonstration over unpaid wages and poor work conditions have become a common scene across Iran and are not limited to railway workers. The past year has seen numerous strikes and demonstrations by different segments of the Iranian society, including workers, merchants, truck drivers, teachers and farmers. Most of them are expressing their dissatisfaction with government corruption and mismanagement of the country’s economy.

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and Social Media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.