By Pooya Stone
Millions of Iranian workers have suffered a steep decline in their earnings since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, which has so far killed at least 36,600 people, making their situation even worse than before.
A report released by the Parliament showed that 2-6 million people will become unemployed over the course of the coronavirus crisis and reports on the ground in south-western Iran indicate that unemployed factory workers are resorting to waste picking to make ends meet during the crisis.
Hadi Mahmoud, a member of the Fasa Sugar Cube Factory Labor Council in Fars province, told the state-run ILNA News Agency that workers were living solely on their subsidies, with at least 140 workers not receiving their wages for months.
This is not surprising, considering that the authorities reported at least 100,000 workers lost their jobs in just three provinces – Lorestan, Mazandaran, and Golestan – over the last 10 days, while 65,000 people in Mazandaran, Qom, Kermanshah, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Mahabad, and Sabzevar have registered for unemployment insurance.
Even these figures are likely underreported because the government always downplays statistics that will make them look bad.
The truth is that Iranian workers can barely make ends meet at any time, but the government will not help, even in the current situation. One labor activist in Mazandaran said workers have the “worst of conditions and do not have money for [food]”.
Hadi Sadati, the head of the Mazandaran Construction Workers Union, said that because work has dried up construction workers unemployed for two months and are living “in appalling poverty”.
Even Abbas Akhondi, the former Minister of Roads and Urban Development, said that the aid promised to businesses by the government “does not agree with the depth of the disaster” and that thousands of small to medium businesses would be forced to shut down and not able to run again for some time.
In a report from the state-run Arman daily, many Iranians have already run through their savings and are forced to sell their belongings.
Another pressing issue, for those who have returned to work, is that they may well become sick because the coronavirus crisis has not abated. For example, in Urmia Petrochemical Plant, 37 of the 82 workers tested positive for coronavirus and they were still working.
The government has reported just under 6,000 deaths and says the situation is under control but the Iranian Resistance and even some officials disagree because the mullahs are, as always, downplaying statistics that make them look bad. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, who has sources on the ground, reports a far more accurate 36,600 coronavirus fatalities.