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Statement of Protest by Teachers and Members of the Co-ordinated Council of Cultural Workers Associations

published 2 March 2007 updated 2 March 2007

Below is the statement, in its entirety, issued by the Teachers and Members of the Co-ordinated Council of Cultural Workers Associations of Iran at the end of their protest action on 4 Feb 2007 in front of the Parliament Building in Tehran. The views expressed in the statement do not represent those of EI. EI, the Global Union representing over 30 million education workers around the world, supports the cause of Iranian teachers who are fighting for a living wage and proper working conditions.

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Statement of Termination of Protest by Teachers and Members of the Co-ordinated Council of Cultural Workers Associations

Tehran, Iran

February 4, 2007

“Oh Malik, abstain from helping the needy and then reminding them of your favor, and to aggrandize yourself to them, or to make promises only to break them; expecting a returned favor annuls the favor itself; and aggrandizing your deeds extinguishes the flame of righteousness. Breaking oaths enrages God and upsets the people, and God has said it is Godly to promise and to follow through.”

(From Malik Ashtar’s Testament)

The murmurs of the past few years at last grew into loud exclamations. The year 1380 (2001-2002) and the chain of protests by the academic workers were heard by the authorities. At first, incredulous, they labeled the academics as “political” and wanted to quickly silence them, but they soon found out that this movement is more deeply rooted than to be started by a few agitators and extinguished with a quick puff of air.

Then came the promises, and the then-President established a longstanding Committee to pursue the matter. The establishment of the Committee caused some differences within the academic community and consequently the bitter events of 6th of Bahman ensued. Teachers were beaten and lambasted in front of the President’s Office, and no one paid any attention to the gray hairs of men and the black chadors of women who had come to claim their rights.

After some time, the sum-total of the Committee’s work was payment of back-pay and debts owed to the academics, accumulated over sixteen years. But that which brought these teachers together was the desire to end discrimination and not claiming their back pay so many years later, when the rate of inflation made the remuneration extremely small. The objections once again arose and Trade associations again came onto the scene with full strength. The Parliament formed a second Committee and Mr. Karrubi promised that two members of the Trade association would be admitted to the Committee meetings but on May 22, Mr. Hajibabai, in an interview with Jam-e-Jam newspaper announce that “there is no need for the presence of the Trade association members, and teachers need to wait only two more months to receive their due.”

Thousands of letters were sent to members of Parliament but no response was given to any letter, and several signed petition scrolls that were put together at numerous rallies were ignored. We pursued the 6th Parliament, and met with them numerous times. At our last meeting, Mr. Karrubi sincerely stated “we have 2 types of discrimination: good discrimination and harmful discrimination, and the type of discrimination against teachers is good discrimination.” He added, “since you are all honest people, you can tolerate deprivation, but if we ignore the oil workers they will become angry and turn off the oil spigots, and then the nation will run into difficulty.” We asked numerous times for a meeting with President Khatami to no avail. We went to the Management and Programming Organization and they completely denied the discrimination claim and stated that according to statistics, teachers receive more salary than other government workers. This while the salaries of the organization itself was over three times that of teachers.

We consulted with Mr. Ghandali, the then-Deputy Education Minister and Dr. Seddighi, the Deputy Director of the Management and Programming Organization. The former introduced a preference schedule as the savior of teacher’s livelihoods, and the latter promised a Pay Parity bill. He stated when the bill is enacted the academic community’s problems will be completely eradicated.

We waited patiently for some time, and visited with him again only to find the “parity amendment would make teachers lose out! So we will instead be introducing a Public Services bill that will solve your problems if it passes!” Days and months passed and nothing was heard about this bill.

After a while, the 7th Parliament came into being, whose motto was justice-orientation, fundamentalism and ensuring the livelihood of the people, so we visited them. The head of Parliament Haddad Adel made a fiery speech, still available on CD, where he exclaimed that he was proud to have been a teacher for thirteen years. He stated he believed in reforming the economy of the Education Ministry and emphasized that the 7th Parliament is different from the 6th Parliament. “They were political, and we are all about work. It’s a good sign that the first bill introduced requires the government to present to the Parliament within two months a bill to reform public services. If not, we will deal with the government in an adversarial manner.”

We advised him that it was too early to judge the 7th Parliament and workers’ organizations do not like to enter the political realm, so “please allow us to remain a Trade organization.” Apparently they were offended because less than two month later the waves of arrests, inquisitions, and summons started across the country. They imagined that they could quell a civic and justice-seeking movement with security-minded actions. But the repercussions of focusing on our movement caused the movement to become more united. The declarations and statements released in those times were more impassioned than in preceding times. Even though the dispiritedness of some of our colleagues disempowered the organizations, they continued to renew themselves in quality and in quantity went from 20 groups to 40 groups. A belief shaped in the minds of the security forces that the flame of this movement could not be extinguished, and that those who made a promise for saving and liberating the academics would not renege on this commitment.

Months went by and the 9th Presidential elections resulted in the election of President Ahmadinejad, with his motto of bringing oil money to the dining room tables of the public. We met with him and due to our past experiences we listened to his words with wariness, but the decisiveness in his speech and his sincerity led us to believe the promises he made were real, and that the Education Ministry and academics’ situation would soon change.

Not only did they not become realized, but whatever honor remained among the academics disappeared with the promise of distribution of stocks to teachers. The newspaper headlines read: “After the needy, teachers will receive stocks…” This is when we discovered the new government would solve the teachers situation by turning them into charity cases like those cases at the Charity Committee. All of this while Mr. Ahmadinejad as Mayor stated he would kiss the hands and feet of teachers and that if he were in charge of a few governmental departments he would increase their salaries several-fold!

Nowadays, using the excuse of financial hardship, the government wants to retract the Charity Bill, a bill that according to experts has taken over 5,000 man hours, and has appeased and silenced teachers and Trade activists until such time that it is enacted. Truly, haven’t the security forces, who are the eyes and ears of the authorities, told them that millions of teachers and workers are awaiting passage and enactment of this bill, and to retract it could create a major crisis?

Of course, we still have a few objections to specific sections of the bill and believe those problems should be gradually corrected.

We know that the job security bill will make many other workers upset. We know that the different between the minimum and maximum wage in the bill, called the Pay Parity amendment, is between seven and thirty-five-fold. We know that the service requirement of workers and the retirement age will increase. We know that the Judges, Boards of Higher Education, the Security Ministry, some of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and even the armed forces will try to not be subject to this bill. We know the Oil Ministry will not allow the several million tooman salaries of their employees to be decreased. We have several other issues that we will address when we believe the time is right.

But we also know that if this bill is properly enacted, no one will have more than one pay stub, and teachers and nurses will automatically received pay increases that are 10 percent more than other workers. Should this happen, inflation resulting from pay raises will not be only the problem of teachers, and if there is an uproar, this time it will not be only the teachers protesting. Therefore the government will have to respond to all workers, and this will cause all workers to unite to improve their livelihoods.

Unfortunately, up to this point, most groups have not joined with the teachers and have not seen the teachers’ problems as a societal problem because as the education budget remains in deficit each year, no one becomes upset or shows any reaction; therefore we are disturbed when we hear this year’s education budget has a 3.3 trillion tooman deficit as compared to last year, this while the total budget has increased markedly. We are disappointed when we see that no one is answerable to the academic failure of over 4 million children this past year, and that talk of an investigation of the Education Minister is delayed due to the goings-on in Parliament. We are disappointed when we hear 6,000 schools lack basic health services, or that each year students burn to death in fires caused by the lack of proper heating apparatus in classrooms, and no one resigns or even apologizes. We are disappointed when we hear that over 9 million students study in schools that operate in two shifts. Under these circumstances, shouldn’t we object to what goes on in our country’s education and development?

Mr. President, didn’t you say “wherever you see injustice you should scream”? Who will respond to our screams? Or will you try to whitewash this situation by calling for security forces and arrests?

Dear Mr. President: “Each Group has its day, and when that day ends, there is no delaying or acceleration of that day.” Therefore, as long as you have the power to execute the country’s affairs, please leave a superior legacy or else you will suffer the same fate as other leaders you now criticize.

Dear Fellow Academics, honorable and informed teachers, with respect to the disturbances, broken promises, and neglect of authorities (as described above), the Coordinated Council of Cultural Workers Associations understands that civic and Trade movements are processes that require patience, resilience, presence, cooperation, dues-payment, and keeping hope alive. Just the fact that in the past year, the forgotten matter of teachers rightful salaries has come under national focus, and authorities including the President and governmental Boards, the Head and Members of Parliament, and knowledgeable Directors admit to violating your rights, is a step forward, however small. All of us expected these bitter confessions by the authorities would lead them towards practical solutions that could end overt discrimination. But the actions of the past month signify not only that their will to do the minimum, such as passing and enacting the Public Services bill, does not exist, but that all hidden and visible indications are that certain groups are pressing for the elimination and abolishment of this bill. Our historic memory of about the authorities reveals that they assess, and act to bring about budgetary solutions to end the violation of your material and spiritual rights based only on the combined degree of your expertise, actions and protests. Therefore after two protests in front of the Parliament we representatives of the Coordinated Council of Cultural Workers Associations make the following pronouncements and hope that open ears and a willingness to act exist:

1. We will give the Parliament and the government until 25 Bahman 1385 (February 14, 2007) to pass the final version of the Public Services Bill, to create a budgetary line and make it operational as of 1 Farvardin 1386 (March 21, 2007)

2. We teachers across the country, in the event of the failure to pass the legislation by the specified date will protest this neglect and make our voices heard on 30 Bahman 1385 (February 19 2007) and 1 Esfand 1385 (February 20, 2007). We will attend school but will not attend classes.

3. We want an end to the expulsion of Mr. Nowdinian and a correction of the problems regarding his educational rights, as well as his return to Sanandaj.

4. If the above conditions are not responded to, a grand convening of the Coordinated Council of Cultural Workers Associations will take place in Tehran during the second week of Esfand to review results, decisions, and next steps.

5. It is noted that if any teachers or council members are arrested or encounter any difficulty, there will be a large public protests by academics in front of the Parliament.

Iranian Teachers Trade Association

Teachers Trade Association of Kermanshah

Academic Trade Association of Yazd

Teachers Trade Association of Ardabil

Academic Association of Isfahan Province

Academics Association of Shiraz

Academics Trade Society of Khorasan

Academic Trade Association of Khorasan

Teachers Trade Association of Gilan (Rasht)

Academic Society of Astaneh Ashrafieh

Academic Trade Association of Kurdistan

Academic Trade Association of Ghazvin Province

Teachers Trade Association of Iran (Lahijan)

Academic Trade Association of Charmahal and Bakhtiari

Academic Trade Association of Shahreza

Academic Trade Association of the Central Province (Markazi)

Teachers Association of Hamedan

Teachers Trade Association of Malayer

Teachers Trade Association of Iran (Nekah)

Academic Trade Society of Khomeinishahr

Academic Trade Association of Dezful

Academic Trade Association of the Zanjan Province

Academic Trade Union of Ahvaz

Teachers Trade Association of Urmia

Academic Trade Association of Shushtar

Teachers Trade Association of Abhar Township

Academic Association of Eslamshahr

Academic Trade Community of Ilam

Teachers Trade Associaiton of Shahreh Rey

Academic Trade Association of Kashan

Academic Trade Association of Mazandaran

Academic Trade Association of Ghaemshahr

Academic Trade Association of Kerman

Academic Trade Association of Damavand

Teachers Trade Association of Pakdasht

Secretariat of the Coordinated Council of Cultural Workers Associations

February 4, 2007