Ministry of Labor, Cooperatives, and Social Welfare
Iran’s Ministry of Labor, Cooperatives, and Social Welfare has dismantled virtually all of Iran’s independent labor unions and trade associations, and prosecuted and imprisoned most of their leaders and many of their members. (Such individuals are typically prosecuted under national security charges.) As such Iran is directly violating the protections for freedoms of association and assembly guaranteed by the Iranian constitution as well as Article 22 of the ICCPR, to which Iran is a party.
Major unions shut down by the Ministry include the Iranian Journalists Association, the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Company Trade Union, and the Teachers Association.
Also during the previous administration, a law was passed exempting small workshops and manufacturers with fewer than five employees from having to adhere to labor laws. This led directly to millions of workers losing their access to insurance, retirement, and legal protections overnight.
According to Iranian law, employing children under the age of 15 is illegal. However, increasing manufacturing costs and the high inflation rate have led owners of small industries to seek cheaper labor, often resorting to child workers. Though Iranian law does allow for special employment circumstances for children between the ages of 15 to 18, these regulations are largely ignored.
Economic difficulties and the increased cost of education have resulted in large numbers of children entering the Iranian labor force. Child laborers are mostly employed in workshops with fewer than 10 employees, many of which are not covered by labor laws and have no oversight. No government organization takes responsibility for working children, and the Ministry of Labor does not consider them laborers, leaving them vulnerable and without government protection.
The current definition of employment includes individuals who work only a few hours each month. By counting such people as “employed,” they become ineligible for guaranteed state unemployment and welfare benefits, and therefore are living in extreme poverty.
- Allow the establishment of free and independent labor unions and organizations, and allow them to be active and to advocate for their constituencies.
- Reverse the dissolution of the Iranian Journalists Association, allowing journalists to have their own guild again.
- Stop harassing labor union members and leaders.
- End the improper overuse of security charges to circumvent constitutional protections of associations.
- Release imprisoned labor activists.
- Review the law exempting small workshops and manufacturers from labor laws and the laws defining employment, and reinstate insurance, retirement, and legal protections for affected workers.
- Enforce the law that makes it illegal to hire children.
- Provide oversight on child employment to detect and report violations.