On the 23rd of January, a few oil company workers gathered in front of the Ministry of Oil building on Taleghani Street in Tehran, the capital of Iran, to pursue their union demands. The rally met with police intervention and a number of them were arrested. The main demand of the protesting workers was the implementation of Article 10 of the Law on Duties and Powers of the Ministry of Oil. The law was passed in May 2012 to end the dissatisfaction of Ministry of Oil employees, and was intended to improve the difficult living conditions of full-time employees, temporary contract workers and others who are paid by the Ministry of Oil through private companies. The Ministry has so far refused to implement the law on the pretext of the budget deficit.
Prior to the presidency of Mohammad Khatami in 1997, the Islamic Republic made special efforts to provide oil workers with sufficient welfare, due to the importance of the oil, gas, petrochemical and dependent industries. Since then, however, the implementation of a series of neoliberal policies, including downsizing government departments like the Ministry of Oil and forced retirement of many experienced workers, has plunged the Islamic Republic’s oil industry into repeated crises. The Law on Duties and Powers of the Ministry of Oil mentioned above was in fact the last resort, passed by direct order of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei, to overcome these crises. In one recent painful chapter, Roshan Moghaddam, a worker of the oil industry employed by a private company committed suicide at the Hoveyzeh oil field in Southern Iran in June 2020. Despite this horrific event and the widespread corruption among senior managers within this ministry, which even led to several arrests, to date the Minister of Oil has refused to implement this law. As a result, the workers of governmental and private oil companies have repeatedly gone on strike and gathered on the picket line.