Iranian labor minister resigns amid protests against soaring living costs

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Iran’s labor minister resigned on Tuesday amid daily nationwide protests by pensioners, merchants and workers against soaring living costs.

While it was not clear if Hojatollah Abdolmaleki’s resignation was directly related to the month-long protests, a senior MP blamed his “incompetence” for the unrest.

The semi-official Tasnim news site said his resignation followed “mounting criticism for his handling of the labor market and a meagre rise in the retirement pensions.”

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“His failure to create a planned number of jobs and the growing protests over insufficient raises in the retirement pensions had fueled speculations that parliament will impeach him,” Tasnim said in its English-language site.

The Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Security had said it would increase pensions by 57.4 percent to 55.8 million Iranian rials ($177) a month. But pensioners said it was too little too late to cope with years of inflation.

“The level of distrust is unprecedented as we witness protests and anger of laborers and retirees,” senior MP Nasser Mousavi Laregani told parliament.

He said pensioners had to forsake their dignity and go to the street to make their demands. The blame lies “squarely on Abdolmaleki’s incompetence,” he added.

Government spokesperson Ali Bahadori Jahromi told reporters the administration of President Ebrahim Raisi was “doing its best to lessen the pressures on the people” and to “find ways to offer assistance to retirees.”

The majority of the protesters are pensioners and retired government employees who are demanding significant increases in pensions to cope with rising prices.

The string of protests in recent weeks have drawn anti-regime slogans, including “death” to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who has blamed some of the unrest on “foreign enemies” seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

Social media posts on Tuesday purported to show continued protests in several cities. One unverified post said partial strikes on Monday hit bazaars in the capital Tehran, the central town of Kazerun and in the industrial center of Arak.

Iran’s rial hit a new record low on Sunday, exchanging 332,000 to the dollar, against 318,000 to the dollar on June 1.

Jahromi said Mohammad Hadi Zahedi Vafa was named acting labor minister.

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