A nationwide strike by Iranian truck drivers which started on September 22 is entering its third week. Strikers are protesting low pay, increasing operating costs, and road usage fees.
They are also concerned about insurance, which was promised them six months ago; trucks that don’t meet road safety standards; and the high cost of spare parts and equipment.
Meanwhile, Iranian authorities have intensified their crackdown on the striking drivers. Security forces and police have arrested close to 150 protesters, according to informed sources. Many of those detained were reportedly trying to prevent some of their colleagues from crossing picket lines.
Iran’s Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has called the striking drivers “bandits who should be tried and sentenced to death.” Many officials and Friday prayer leaders around the country have accused foreign powers of engineering the strikes.
During a speech at the Friday prayers in Rasht, capital of the northern province of Gilan, Mohammad Abdollahpour, the local commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’s Qods Force (IRGC-QF) said: “These strikes are incited by foreign enemies to undermine the Islamic Republic.”
Despite these threats, truck drivers have continued to engage in work stoppages and voice their grievances in the past few weeks.
Mohammad Sadegh Akbari, the chief prosecutor for the southern province of Hormozgan, said on October 2: “Some subversive drivers who had disrupted the trucking routes were arrested and charged with spreading corruption on Earth and waging war against God. No one has the right to threaten the security of our roads and cities.”
“The government must come up with workable plans on a national level to solve the current problem. Most truck drivers face a shortage of parts and the high cost of equipment. However, lack of quality tires is a health and safety issue that can have dire consequences. There is currently a severe shortage of tires in [the northeastern province of] Golestan,” Mehr News agency reported, quoting Mahmoud Hosseini, the managing director of the Union of Shipping Cooperative Companies of Golestan.
Mr. Hosseini had previously warned the authorities that “the shortage of tires would cause a complete shut down of the trucking operation in the province.” The truckers’ strike has reportedly impacted many industries, including the transport of agricultural and petrochemical products.
Some senior officials have expressed their support for the striking drivers. Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the Guardian Council, recently said: “The government must address the legitimate and non-political grievances of the truckers regarding low wages, high operating costs, road usage fees and the shortage of parts and spares as soon as possible.”
There have been many reports from around the country on driver arrests. Colonel Alireza Mazaheri, the commander of Northern Khorasan police force, said: “So far, we have arrested seven protesters and nine social media users who had urged truck drivers to go on strike. Truck drivers have been voicing their concerns about their work conditions and the failure of the officials to fulfill their promises.”
Reza Pahlavi, leader of the National Council of Iran (NCI), an umbrella group of exiled opposition leaders, expressed his support for the striking drivers in a tweet on September 26: “The nationwide strike by the courageous truck drivers who are demanding their rights serves as a good model for peaceful civil disobedience. The negative impact of the regime’s incompetence and corrupt nature is evident in every aspect of people’s lives. Every Iranian is duty-bound to support this progressive movement. A fight for our civil rights, #we are all in this together.”
Some international labor organizations and unions have also thrown their weight behind the striking truck drivers. One of America’s most influential unions, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has expressed its support for them. In a letter to Abolfazl Mehrabadi, deputy director of the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C., Teamsters president James P. Hoffa said: “Drivers have advised us of low pay, increasing operating costs, and road usage fees and a refusal by your government to recognize the rights of these workers to form trade unions of their choosing.”
The head of the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s (ITF) inland transport, Noel Coard, said: “We are very concerned about the situation. Let it be clear that ITF unions globally voice their solidarity and stand alongside the truckers of Iran in their fight to defend workers’ rights.”
Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi