Naser Aqajari, a labor activist, has compared working conditions in Iran’s Free Trade-Industrial and Special Economic Zones to those of forced labor camps.
“These are appalling conditions. Workers in these companies are not protected by the Labor Law,” Aqajari recently told ILNA [the Iranian Labor News Agency.]
He added: “While not having to comply with the Labor Law is a blessing for companies that operate in the free trade and special economic zones, it is a curse for the workers who are involved in those projects.”
“They work 12- hour shifts. Adding to that the mandatory overtime and travel time, the workers put in 16 hours a day on average. They are also on call 24/7,” he said.
Aqajari added: “Most workers live in dormitories that lack basic amenities.” He said they endured harsh work conditions because there were not many well-paid job opportunities available to them: “The current economic climate in the country forces many people to accept any job at the minimum wage. Consequently, some workers seek out higher-paying jobs at large industrial complexes in the free trade and special economic zones.”
“Workers are required to sign either blank contracts or ones that state they are not entitled to receiving bonuses, pensions or severance pay. They are not even provided copies of their contracts,” Aqajari noted. “Workers can take six days off after working 21 days. All leaves have to be approved by the foreman. However, their leaves can be canceled should the project require it. Many of them even work for six hours on Fridays.”
Workers must shoulder all work-related costs including transportation. “Most of them cannot afford to take holidays, since they are owed six months back pay on average,” Aqajari said. “These inhumane economic and working conditions places tremendous pressure on many families,” Aqajari argued, adding that there was a “high rate of divorce and drug addiction among workers.”
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Iran’s Free Trade-Industrial Zones (FTZs) include Kish (Persian Gulf), Qeshm (Strait of Hormuz), Chahbahar (Southeast), Aras (Northwest), Arvand (Southwest) and Anzali (Caspian Sea.)
Iran’s Special Economic Zones include Sirjan, Salafchegan, Sarakhs, Petrochemical special economic zone, Bandar Bushehr, Arge Jadid, Iran Shipbuilding & Offshore Industries Complex CO.,Shaheed Rajaee Port, Bushehr, Shiraz, AmirAbad Port, Payam and Yazd Textile SEZ.]