By Kayhan Life Staff
On April 4, pensioners and social security recipients held protests in front of the State Welfare Organization (SWO) offices in Tehran and 15 other cities across the country over their low monthly payments and living conditions.
Protesters called on the government to enforce existing laws requiring pensions and social security payments to be adjusted according to the rate of inflation and the cost-of-living index.
Many of the protesters were carrying empty pots and pans to highlight their inability to make ends meet and put food on the table.
The event marked the first nationwide protest since the start of the new Iranian year on March 20.
Esmail Gerami, a pensioners’ union activist, was arrested at his home before the protests. He was reportedly taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison on unspecified charges.
Photographs published on social media showed retirees and social security recipients holding protests in Tabriz, Arak, Shoosh, Mashhad, Sanandaj, Shushtar, Qazvin, Isfahan, Ardabil, Gorgan, Ilam, Kerman, Nishapur, Rasht, and Shiraz.
Protesters were shouting several slogans, including “loud street protest is the only way to escape empty tables,” “we will not vote ever again, because of all the lies,” “the nation has never experienced such injustice,” “outraged by blatant inequality,” and “we will not vote again, because we have not experienced justice.”
In February 2020, the Supreme Labor Council’s (SLC) Pay Commission set the monthly living wage for workers at $1,665. Pensioners are calling for their income to be adjusted in line with the cost-of-living index. Members of the SLC’s Pay Commission refused to adjust the living wage according to the cost-of-living index.
The commission only agreed to raise the minimum wage for skilled workers by 39 percent and day laborers by 29 percent. The measure only widens the gap between the income and the cost of living for workers and pensioners.
“We will be back tomorrow if you send us home today,” a pensioner told the head of Isfahan State Welfare Organization, who had hoped to end the protest held outside his office. “We will get what we are entitled to, even if they shoot us with bullets.”
The following is the text of a statement released by pensioners and social security recipients following their first protest in the new Iranian year:
“Dear friends and honorable retirees, social security recipients, beneficiaries, and the disabled:
Efforts to demand our rights as pensioners, which began in 2020, have now entered a new phase and will continue throughout the current year. We call on the SWO to fulfill its legal obligations to us.
Our demands comprise two sections:
1. Addressing the rights of pensioners.
2. Revamping the SWO and ending the government’s public fund involvement.
Addressing pensioners’ rights include:
1. [The SWO] must implement the second phase of the plan to adjust the March-April payslips and use the rest of $8 billion to backdate the pay rise to July 2020.
2. [The SWO] must increase employees’ and workers’ annual salaries and wages in line with articles 96 and 111, and clause B of article 12 of the Six [Five-Year] Development Plan [2016-2021]-effective March-April of the current year.
3. [The SWO] must provide employment benefits to workers, including childcare, family, housing, and living allowances. It must raise the living standards of the pensioners and those collecting social security.
4. [The SWO] must adjust pensions of those retiring in 2021-22 in line with the current budget of $22 billion, passed by the Majlis [Iranian Parliament] earlier this year. Sadly, the retirees receiving social security are in a worse situation than military and government pensioners.
5. Under article 54 of the welfare law, the SWO must provide comprehensive healthcare to all pensioners. We call on the organization to uphold the law and fulfill its obligation.
6. Removing “added service” and replacing “earned service” in the pension guidelines is harmful.
7. [The SWO] must reinstate the 85 most prescribed medicines in the [insurance] booklet, which were previously removed.
8. [The SWO] must make “combat zone payments” to military retirees living in border towns who served during the war.
9. [The SWO] must raise annual salaries under article 96 of the [Social Security] law and in line with the Inflation rate set by the Central Bank, as a percentage applied to all pensioners uniformly, and without discriminating against people at the bottom of the pay scale. The SWO is duty-bound to amend and backdate payment for pensioners, increase the cost-of-living allowance and reduce the number of those living under the poverty level, which stands at 10 million people.
10. [The SWO] must amend article 98 of the Social Security law on deducting 2 percent from pensioners’ payment whose medical insurance booklet is not up to date.
Revamping the SWO and ending the government’s involvement in the public fund:
1. The investment in Shasta [Social Security Investment Company (SSIC)] belongs to retired workers. They should receive their shares this year, as we have demanded.
2. [The SWO] must remove article 69 of the Social Security law or amending it to prevent peer discrimination and prejudice.
In conclusion, we (retirees and pensioners) reiterate our commitment to pursue our demands. We will not rest or relent and will continue to fight for the rights of this hardworking segment of society.
The minimum social security payment proposed by Mr. Salari is not in line with the inflation rate and falls short of meeting our demand. As we have said repeatedly, the payment should be adjusted in line with the inflation rate and the cost-of-living index. While some 10 million people live under the poverty line, how can we make ends meet and support our families on such meager pensions?