Iran approves bill on easing labour laws
TEHRAN, June 8 (Reuters) - Iran's parliament approved a bill on Tuesday
to ease labour laws as part of a drive to encourage investment and improve
the country's chronic unemployment problem, but the assembly must still
work out the final details.
The law, passed by a narrow margin of 107 to 93, exempts firms with
three or less employees from labour regulations for six years.
The bill, pushed through by advocates of economic free markets, has
caused tension with state labour unions and provoked labour unrest throughout
the country last month. Debate on details of the new law will resume on
Iran introduced strict labour laws after its 1979 Islamic revolution,
which sought to defend the interests of the economic underclass. The laws
make it nearly impossible for an employer to fire his workers and requires
various benefits for them.
The laws, however, have been challenged over the past decade as the
country has tried to move from a centralised economy to a free market.
Politicians across the spectrum blamed them for a general reluctance to
invest and for rising unemployment.
Iran's unemployment rate is officially estimated at around 14 percent,
but independent sources say it is much higher.
The bill enjoyed support from both moderates and conservatives in parliament,
but was opposed by Islamic leftists close to labour unions. The government
of President Mohammad Khatami was also against the bill, mainly due to
pressure from supporters in the unions.
Khatami's Labour Minister Hossein Kamali urged the deputies in a passionate
plea to vote against the proposal. "This idea has not been thought
through. It means anarchy. It belongs to a pre-industrial capitalism,"
"Tens of thousands of workers are injured at work every year. Who
are they going to seek redress from if they are not protected by the law
-- mosques, prayers leaders or the police?"
He said the law would affect the lives of more than two million people
who work for small businesses.
But supporters said the law could help create jobs for large pools of
unemployed young people.
"No we are not indifferent to the fate of the workers. We want
to create jobs. We want to fight unemployment," said Mohammad-Mehdi
Shojaiefard, a member of parliament. "And to do that we must revise
the labour law. What if these unemployed workers once take to the streets
for their rights?" he asked.