Southern Iran Oil and Gas Workers Strike Over Unpaid Wages

Workers at several production companies operating under the auspices of the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum (MoP) have gone on strike in recent days over unpaid wages and a lack of employee benefits.

Day laborers and employees of Iran International General Contractor (IGC), a company working on the offshore South Pars Phase 14 gas project, have been on strike since May 25, demanding six months of unpaid salaries and wages.  

On the same day, oil workers in the city of Asaluyeh, in the southern province of Bushehr, staged a protest demanding better work conditions and unpaid wages.

[aesop_image img=”” panorama=”off” credit=”IGC workers. Source: Kayhan London” align=”center” lightbox=”on” captionsrc=”custom” captionposition=”center” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

Footage shows a group of male protesters in front of the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone (PSEEZ) office building holding placards and voicing their concerns. 

The video clip shows a man brandishing a sign which reads “Oppressive Managers. Oppressed Locals.” He shouts: “Where are you, Mr. Director? Why do you ignore our pleas?” The date May 25, 2019, appears on all the signs, banners and placards.

A man’s off-camera voice says: “The Pars Special Economic Energy Zone provides the bulk of the government’s budget, and yet we are starving. Why?”

The clip also shows a man holding one end of a large banner that reads: “Dear oil minister, governor of Bushehr, and Bushehr’s representative [to the Parliament], how can you in clear conscience approve the firing of young locals [workers] from the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone who have received no wages in nine months?”

The same man shouts: “This is disgraceful. Shame on the governor of Bushehr. Shame on the MP from Bushehr. We lose our jobs, but they make 10 to 20 million [toman] a month and live happily in a paradise. I am a university graduate, but if I am lucky, I’ll end up working as a taxi driver.” 

Another sign reads: “We expected to go back to work on April 9, but we are still in limbo.”

“We don’t want false promises. We want to return to work,” another sign says.

The caption for the video reads: “Massive drop in Iran’s oil exports has prompted Oil Minister [Bijan Namdar Zanganeh] to cut costs. In a letter earlier this month to all companies operating under the auspices of the MoP, Mr. Zanganeh called for a major cost-cutting effort which included shutting down operations, reducing the workforce, and selling properties and surplus equipment.” 

A tweet by Kayhan London says: “Workers in Asaluyeh are protesting work conditions and unpaid wages. May 25, 2019. Iranian Oil Ministry is facing a crisis after a sharp drop in oil export. Ministry is looking for ways to cut cost. May 26, 2019.”  

Dozens of workers from the National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC) in Ahvaz, capital of the southern province of Khuzestan, held a protest in front of the main gate to the factory yard on May 4. A photograph shows workers with a large banner that reads: “The honorable managing director Mr. Mousavi, we implore you to reconsider the firing of workers and suspension of drilling operations. From: The exploration, development, and drilling personnel at the National Iranian Drilling Company.” 

On May 13, Oil Minister Zanganeh instructed the Iranian National Oil Company and all of its subsidiaries to implement a series of cost-cutting measures including hiring the freeze and sale of properties and surplus equipment. He cited an alarming drop in Iran’s oil exports and “extraordinary conditions in the country” as reasons for having to take those steps.

A group of 263 workers from the PSEEZ in Asaluyeh, who had lost their jobs as the result of the new cost-cutting exercise, wrote a letter to Zanganeh, highlighting their dire economic situations. All signatories to the letter are university graduates. 

“Honorable minister: We are ashamed and embarrassed. We cannot face our wives and children. We have to do menial jobs for two weeks before we can afford bus tickets home,” the letter said. “You must have heard of us. We are 263 university graduates from Bushehr Province. Most of us left our previous jobs and joined the PSEEZ to serve our country’s oil industry in various capacities, including exploration, development, drilling, refining, and services.”

According to several labor associations, many workers have lost their jobs almost overnight following Minister Zanganeh’s cost-cutting directive. The current hire freeze means a large segment of the workforce in the oil industry has no prospect of finding other jobs soon. Many workers — especially those with young families — who have not received their wages and salaries for months before being fired are now in a tough financial situation. 

Iran’s economy is on the verge of collapse. U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration aim to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero. In the coming weeks and months, people from all walks of life and professions will probably stage protests around the country.

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]