By Pooya Stone
Following a series of revelations about the Coronavirus in Iran ـ including victims’ statistics and secret documents showing the regime’s cover-up - by the Iranian opposition coalition NCRI and the MEK/PMOI,
the regime was forced to accept a quasi-quarantine, and while many jobs were shut down, it left the people’s livelihood problems to be solved by themselves without any support. Even to the vast majority of workers and the hungry people, the regime’s government did not pay any wages during the quarantine.
The state-run ISNA news agency on 11 April in a report titled, “The confabulation of Qom’s daily workers in the corona-days” showed just a part of the regime’s systematic injustice against workers. In this report, one of the workers said: “Ever since Corona came, misery has followed us, if Corona hasn’t killed us, we’re dying of starvation.”
The words of several other workers are as follows:
“Two months after Corona came, we didn’t go to work. We are unemployed, we have nothing to eat. I haven’t been to work since Eid (Iran’s new year) came. Now there is a man here who is 60-70 years old. With this age, he comes here and goes to work. Now that the virus has arrived, there is a worker who did not go to work one day like me.”
Another worker said: “Before Corona came, we were not dependent on someone, we worked for a daily wage of 100,000-150,000 tomans and went back home.”
But now because of the lack of jobs, many of the regime’s employers misuse the workers. “Because of the lack of work, they abuse us because of this disease, they give us just 10,000 or 15,000 tomans. During this holiday, one of them refer to us and we brought him a refrigerator three floors up, and he gives us just 10,000 tomans,” a worker complained.
Government agents claimed that due to the recession and the increase in labor and demand, it is natural for workers’ wages to fall.
This is an example of the brutal exploitation and abuse of workers who are paid up to one-tenth of the pre-Corona era. Of course, that is if they find a job.
In these difficult circumstances, not only is there no support from the regime’s side, but the workers are doomed to die if they do not go to work.
This is in a situation where workers’ salaries are paid all over the world and those who are unemployed are given unemployment insurance. In addition, elsewhere around the world, food support packages are provided free of charge to workers, and hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on the health of their workforce.
Lack of health care for workers in the workplace
Another issue facing workers during the Corona era is the lack of health requirements to prevent the infection by the virus, which is available to the public free of charge around the world. But Iran’s labor force, whose purchasing power has been halved, is forced to spend a significant portion of its revenue on its own health.
ILNA reported on 12 April: “Before the outbreak of corona, latex gloves, which used to cost 35,000 tomans, were distributed in pharmacies, but now they cost 100,000 tomans.”
In other words, a 3-fold increase. The cheapest 500-toman mask is offered today in pharmacies at a price of 4,500 tomans. Masks with air filters are offered for at least 35,000 tomans, which is nine times more expensive. 60,000 tomans per liter of alcohol are now sold for 100,000 tomans.
“We don’t say anything about the black market anymore. The working class, the poor, the vulnerable, and the underprivileged cannot afford to put these things in their cost-basket. Because of you (the Rouhani government) and the previous governments, we have become poorer every day and our purchasing power has decreased. If at the beginning of 2018, according to the decision of the Ministry of Labor, the monthly salary was $232, it reached $130 last year; then do you expect people to wash their hands regularly and stay at home to control the disease?”
The state-run news agency recognized the unbelievable costs of sanitary requirements to confront the coronavirus and wrote:
“The price of all kinds of gloves has increased four to five times during this period, and each 200-piece package has increased from 28,000 to 30,000 tomans to 120,000 to 160,000 tomans. Even gloves known as freezer bags, which were sold for 3,000 tomans before the corona outbreak, cannot be found for less than 15,000 tomans today. You cannot send the steelworker to work, but not provide them with gloves and disinfectants.”
In another example, a municipal worker (trashman), in response to a question from a woman who gave him a mask and asked why the municipality did not give you a mask, said: “They themselves understand that there are 150 workers, and masks are necessary, the disease has come to Tehran, and they will get these diseases (workers). They understand but they don’t give us masks… it’s not a mask, they do not give a mask to any worker at all.”
A daily wage worker in Qom told ISNA: “This mask that is now on my mouth, you should believe, I wash it twice a day, God forbid, we don’t have others. That’s the truth… these poor people have no gloves, have no masks, I now have no mask, no glove, and no alcohol… have no mask to put on my face, have no disinfectants, have no alcohol, a 2,000-toman mask is sold at the pharmacy for 5, 6 or 7 thousand tomans. You go to the pharmacy; they say that they don’t have any. I bought these workers gloves not to be infected and wash them many times daily.” (ISNA, 11 April)
Railway line construction workers are also facing this difficult situation, says one of the workers of the Railway Iron Technical Buildings: “Workers in some areas, such as the Zagros region, have bought masks and gloves with their own money. Workers in other railway areas, such as Mashhad, Hormozgan, Shahroud, Zahedan, Tehran, Semnan, Damghan, Islamshahr, and Robat Karim are still operating without minimal health facilities such as masks and gloves.” (ILNA news agency, 13 April)
Hospital refusal to accept sick workers
Workers and employees of hospitals and even municipality workers who sometimes have arrears of wages or workers who do not have money for medicine and treatment are not accepted in hospitals and are sent to their homes. This can spread the disease to other members of the family.
There have been hundreds of cases whereby family members of patients with coronavirus are also infected.