Ladies and gentlemen; honourable Solidar representatives and organizers, Sisters and Brothers:

Please accept our warmest greetings and gratitude from the Sherkat-e Vahed Workers’ Syndicate and its leader Mansour Osanloo, who is currently behind bars. We regret that the executive directors of the Syndicate could not be present at this gathering and thank the Syndicate’s attorney for attending on our behalf.

It is a pleasure for us to be here on the 4th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Sherkat-e Vahed Worker’s Syndicate. We are grateful to the ITF and the ITUC, for nominating us for the Silver Rose Award, and would like to thank the Solidar organization for granting our Syndicate this prestigious award.

By honouring us with this award, the Solidar organization, with its tireless efforts to establish social justice around the world, reassures all those fighting for social justice that their efforts and sacrifices continue to be recognized and valued.

We would like to share this award with all the other candidates and believe that this award belongs to the workers of Iran. It belongs to the millions of workers who, despite all the existing pressures, have not received any wages for months; it belongs to all female workers who, based on their gender, do not enjoy the same rights as their male counterparts; it belongs to those national and religious minorities who face systemic discrimination during the hiring process; it belongs to all those who, in their struggle to establish independent workers’ organizations, have become imprisoned, unemployed, expelled, destitute and homeless; and, most important of all, this award belongs to all our spouses and children who have endured endless hardship and suffering throughout the short life of our nascent syndicate.

We regard this award as a symbol of support and encouragement for workers’ rights activists and union members. It is a gift to all workers who do not seek out their rights by waiting for charity and altruism from the state; a gift to workers who recognize that the so-called “workers’” organizations established by the state only serve to control and discipline the independent workers’ movement, to identify and harass workers’ rights activists, and to misrepresent workers’ interests. In our opinion, this award symbolizes the support and encouragement that exists for workers’ rights activists and trade union members who rely not on the State or their organizations, but instead, on the masses and the workers themselves to promote and advocate for workers’ and human rights. It recognizes those workers who engage in their struggles through education, organization, and collective action; courses of action that the Sherkat-e Vahed Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company Syndicate has thus far adopted.

It is worth emphasizing that workers’ activism and protests have, since 2004, witnessed a rapid and unprecedented growth in Iran. Numerous organizations have been formed both within and outside of the workplace, and workers have striven to fight for their rights and pursue their struggles democratically by electing representatives and ratifying constitutions, despite the obstructions and repression that they face.

Workers in Iran suffer from a lack of enforcement of both domestic and international laws, and even when their wages are paid on time, these wages are unable to maintain the most basic standard of living, as documented in the recent report by the International Labour Organization. Rather than offer support, the response from the Iranian government has been to portray the workers, whose basic rights have been neglected for years, as the guilty party.

Following the establishment of the Sherkat-e Vahed Syndicate, the workers have participated in two major strikes. During these years, they have been subjected to abuse, imprisonment, unemployment, repeated and arbitrary summons to appear in court, and the denial of health benefits despite increasing inflation. Currently, 35 members of the Syndicate have been unemployed for about 3 years. Many of the Syndicate activists have experienced heart problems, as well as kidney and respiratory diseases. However, because they do not have access to any health benefits and must pay for healthcare themselves, their families are under enormous financial pressure and their children are often deprived of opportunities to further their education. We would like to request that the European parliament assist our efforts to free our Syndicate leader from prison, to return to our jobs and to legalize the Sherkat-e Vahed Workers’ Syndicate.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the ILO Convention on the Right to Organize, both of which have helped to defend the rights and interests of workers everywhere and also the 60th Anniversary of Solidar. However, despite the fact that the establishment of syndicates in Iran dates back over 100 years, workers’ and human rights have yet to see the light of day.

The granting of this award reassures Iranian workers that the Solidar organization and other human rights organizations are aware of our efforts, and attests to the fact that the question of Iran is more extensive and complex than portrayed by the mass media. The nuclear issue should not be the only issue discussed in relation to Iran. It is important to look beyond the Iranian government in order to realize that there exists a peoples who, despite the hardships it has suffered over the years, is peace-loving and seeks out civil and non-violent solutions. The people of Iran have no faith in silent diplomacy and hope that it is the fate of 72 million ordinary Iranian citizens that becomes the centre of discussion in international meetings, not economic or military matters.

Most of us in this gathering still believe that trade unions and workers’ organizations have set the foundations for the democratization of many societies, and that we cannot erect the pillars of a healthy society in the absence of trade unions. Workers in Iran appeal to all humanitarian and workers’ rights organizations to support them by engaging in continued constructive actions to establish such trade unions and thus to bring about a real democracy.

The unprecedented growth of the Iranian trade unions and workers’ movement and the escalation of struggles in the last three years lead to believe that we have the solid support of the international community. We know that when we raise our fists, we are not alone. This award strengthens our resolve to continue and to broaden our struggles.

In closing, the Sherkat-e Vahed Workers’ Syndicate would once again like to thank Solidar organization for granting us this award.

With hopes that peace and justice spread throughout the globe,

The Sherkat-e Vahed Worker’s Syndicate
Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company

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