The British government expects Iran to ‘uphold the right to form and join trade unions’ in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to assurances given to Communist Party of Britain general secretary Robert Griffiths.
In a letter from the Foreign Office, an Iran Department official accepts that organising labour in the Islamic Republic has ‘proven dangerous in practice’, despite calls from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini that there should be ‘mutual respect’ between employers and workers.
Responding to a call from Mr Griffiths for the British government to demand the immediate and unconditional release of gaoled trade union leaders in Iran, the FCO official expresses his concern for the plight of painters’ union leader Shahrokh Zamani, bus drivers’ union treasurer Reza Shahabi and petrochemical worker Mohammad Jarahi.
They have been imprisoned on charges including ‘acting against national security by establishing or being a member of groups opposed to the system’, which is how the Islamic regime characterises internationally recognised trade unions.
In April 2012, Reza Shahabi was sentenced to six years imprisonment and began a hunger strike at the beginning of this month. He was reportedly beaten by a guard on his way to the infirmary at Rajai Shahr prison four days ago.
As evidence of British government concern about this case and others, the Foreign Office official points out that Minister of State Hugh Robertson issued a tweet on International Workers Day last month demanding the release of all political prisoners in Iran, including labour activists.
Mr Griffiths told the Morning Star that this was a ‘thoroughly inadequate gesture’ and urged the government not to allow ‘diplomatic expediency’ to overshadow the fundamental democratic right to organise in trade unions, whether at home or abroad.
‘The international labour movement must keep up the pressure on behalf of victimised trade unionists everywhere, as we cannot rely on politicians whose fine words are rarely matched by deeds’, the CP leader commented.