Iran union urges wage hike at May Day rally

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An Iranian workers union on Wednesday urged the government to hike salaries and curb soaring inflation as the Islamic republic’s economic woes take a toll on its working class, local media reported.

“A 25-percent increase in salaries does not even correspond with the annual inflation [ending March 2012], let alone that of this year,” said the head of the Worker’s House, Alireza Mahjoub, quoted by the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).

Addressing about 4,000 workers in a stadium south of Tehran to mark Labor Day, Mahjoub, who is also a lawmaker, was referring to a government budget proposal for wage hikes.

He said “salary increase and curbing inflation” were the most important demands of his union.

According to official figures, Iran’s inflation rate is 31.5 percent, up from 21 percent a year ago. Analysts believe the real inflation figure is at least double the official rate, and that lower-income workers are hurting the most.

In a separate gathering in front of parliament, “a group of workers” protested low salaries amid “a widening of the gap between [income] classes in society,” ILNA reported, without giving the turnout.

ILNA said an official request by workers to hold a rally had not been granted by the interior ministry.

Citing demonstrators, it said the average salary of a worker is 4,870,000 rials (around 140 dollars) per month, three times below the official poverty line.

The Iranian currency, the rial, has lost over two-thirds of its value since 2012 due to international sanctions over its disputed nuclear program targeting its oil sector and banking system.

Government critics also point to the administration’s economic mismanagement.

Finance Minister Shamseddin Hosseini said in late April that sanctions on the oil industry and the central bank had produced a “currency shock” and an “overwhelming” increase in prices of imported goods.

Iran’s inflation began its rise after the government cut energy and food subsidies in December 2010.

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