CHRI – Ten striking workers at Iran’s Heavy Equipment Production Company (HEPCO) in the city of Arak, south of Tehran, were charged with “disturbing public order” for participating in protests billed as “illegal gatherings” after they appeared in court on May 28, 2018.
The semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency did not mention the workers’ names but said they could face a maximum of five years in prison.
According to Article 27 of Iran’s Constitution, “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”
Nine hundred workers at the plant have gone on strike on at least two occasions since mid-May 2018 demanding three months of unpaid wages.
Between May 14-16, the protesters blocked Iran’s north-south railway line in Arak but returned to work after government mediators and HEPCO managers reached a deal to pay the workers. The strike resumed on May 21 after no payment was issued.
Since its launch in 1975, HEPCO has been one of Iran’s largest producers of construction machinery. The company was taken over by Iran’s new government after the country’s 1979 revolution but became a private enterprise in 2007.
In recent years, the plant’s production levels have dropped dramatically.
Independent labor unions are banned in Iran, strikers are often fired and risk being detained, and labor leaders face long prison sentences on trumped-up national security charges.