Walking down the streets of Tehran in 80’s and early 90’s one would have seen the old fading revolutionary slogans: “Long Live 11th of Ordibehensht (First of May) the Workers’ day! Long Live the Workers! Down With Capitalism!” Using the 11th of Ordibehesht from Iranian calendar, some older ones date to early years of revolutions would have been read: “Long Live the First of May! The Day of Proletariat! Dawn with Capitalist Imperialism!”
These were testimonials to the leftist inclinations of early revolutionaries. Except for a few merchants of Bazar and some of the traditionally religion few felt obliged to advocate the ownership rights or a free market. Advocating capitalism was almost a crime and an intellectual suicide. Justice was the word of the day.
In following the message of justice Iran adopted one of the costliest labor codes in the region. It makes it impossible to fire a worker; so many bankrupt firms continue to keep their labor force failing to pay their salaries. Many entrepreneurs prefer to hire illegal workers from Afghanistan and neighboring countries instead of hiring Iranian workers, to avoid dealing with the labor code. Ignoring the necessities of market and profitability of production has become a norm in approaching the labor issues in Iran.
Today the questions of efficiency, productivity and the issue of unpaid employment are all valid and legitimate topics for the discussions on Iranian economy. However many instead of looking into the causes of events, still concern themselves with short-term remedies and the events. Certainly it is tragic when a worker is not paid, and there are reports of factories where workers have not been paid for several months, but many of these firms have been bankrupt for several years now and they need to adjust the number of their employees. The restrictions set by the labor code prevent the entrepreneurs from maneuvers that would save their businesses. No sales and no revenues are translated into no income, but few observe that.
It is the first of May again. May be it is time for Iranian workers to demand freedom of choice, instead of an ambiguous justice and protections that doom the future of their employment and make it an unpaid one.