Labor Reps in Iran Protest Disappearing Benefits as Hard Hit Workers Struggle Under Ailing Economy
A group of labor representatives from around Iran gathered during the country’s 2018 national Social Security Day, July 16, in front of the Health Ministry in Tehran to protest what they describe as the erosion of workers’ health and other benefits.
Speaking amidst a heavy police presence, the protesters said the ministry’s misuse of social security funds has driven the system to the verge of “bankruptcy” according to the state-run Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).
“The health minister is one of the main people responsible for obliterating workers’ health benefits,” Hossein Habibi, chairman of the Islamic Labor Councils Coordination Committee in Tehran Province, told ILNA at the gathering. “He has removed between 70 and 120 drugs from the insurance coverage that our vulnerable workers need.”
He continued: “We are calm today. But we warn the Health Ministry that if it doesn’t take its hands off the Social Security Organization, workers will not remain calm. We declare that we have come here today to determine our future. We say to Parliament and all government officials that we will not stay calm any longer.”
Ali Dehghankia, a board member of the Retired Workers and Pensioners Association in Tehran, also complained to ILNA that because of benefit cuts, workers now have to pay out-of-pocket even for simple cold medicine.
He added that if the government does not take action to repay the funds to the Social Security Organization, “we will not be able to contain dissatisfaction among retirees any longer.”
“The protesters are not opponents of the state,” Akbar Shokat, a board member of the Electricians Guild in Qom Province insisted, adding, “Iranian workers are going through the worst situation because they have not only lost their health insurance benefits but are also suffering from 50-60 percent inflation.”
A statement read at the workers’ gathering said the recent sharp decline in the value of Iran’s currency was going to compound the Social Security Organization’s inability to act as a safety net for hard-hit workers and retirees who rely on fixed incomes.
“If the country does not come out of the current downturn and more jobs are not generated, any effort to save the Social Security Organization will fail and it will face serious problems in the near future,” said the statement.
“Therefore, we urge the honorable government and legislature to offer a serious solution,” it added.