Watchdog: Iran labor rights under threat

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Labor rights in Iran are under threat as Western sanctions take their toll on the economy, sharply reducing the purchasing power of workers, the International Federation for Human Rights warned on Monday.

“Unemployment is on the rise, inflation is at unprecedented levels and most people have to combine several jobs because the minimum wage is insufficient to counterbalance inflation,” the group said.

The minimum wage stands at 4,871,000 rials, roughly 100 euros.

The group’s president, Karim Lahidji, said several trade union leaders have been imprisoned on charges of “acting against national security and propaganda against the regime.”

The body called on the Iranian government to guarantee the freedom of the trade unions, women’s rights and ensure equality in the workplace for ethnic and religious minorities.

The report said the income gap between rich and the poor in Iran is growing, adding that more than half of the 75 million strong population live under the poverty line.

Purchasing power in both cities and rural areas has dropped by more than 70 percent since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in 2005, it added.

“The absolute poverty line is estimated at around seven million rials,” the report quoted a member of the Supreme Council of Labor, Faramarz Tofighi, as saying in April 2012.

Inflation stands at more than 30 percent, according to official figures, food prices have doubled over the past year, and the rial has lost more than two-thirds of its value against the dollar since early 2012.

EU and US sanctions targeting the oil and banking sectors have halved Iran’s hard currency receipts over the past year.

“Workers are left with no legal channels to present their claims and no collective bargaining rights,” the report said, claiming bodies tasked with representing workers are operating as “tools of the state.”

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