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Iranian parliament postpones examination of labour law reform bill

TEHRAN, June 9 (AFP) - Iran's conservative-dominated parliament Wednesday postponed detailed discussion of a controversial bill aimed at easing labour legislation for small businesses.

Under the bill, small businesses with three employees or less will be exempt from the current legislation for six years.

Parliament approved the general principles Tuesday, but members decided in secret ballot to postpone article by article examination of the bill for another six months.

The delay reflects the sensitivity of the project.

The plan to reform the law was welcomed by the powerful traditional merchants of the bazaar and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, both conservative strongholds.

Business circles consider the bill to be indispensable as an incentive to boost economic activity and reduce unemployment.

But the planned changes are strongly opposed by the reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami which believes it will only increase the unemployment rate, officially put at 14 percent but significantly higher in the sprouting outer urban areas and among young people.

The pro-Khatami press Wednesday protested against the passing of the bill's general principles. The daily Kar-o-Kargar (Work and Workers) quoted member of parliament Mohammad Abtahi reflecting the general anger of the reformists.

"Even now when some kind of law does exist, workers still aren't paid their minimum wage, so what do you expect will happen if the laws protecting the working class disappear?" he said.

Under current legislation, it is almost impossible to dismiss workers, and employers are obliged to pay large sums in compensation even when the workers agree to leave.

Tehran workers staged a vast rally on May 1, World Labour Day, to protest against the proposed bill, which Labour minister Hossein Kamali described as "medieval."


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