Translator's note: On May 24, a massive explosion and fire at a newly inaugurated oil refinery in Abadan led to the deaths and injuries of an unknown number of workers. The explosion, caused by technical problems, occurred during a facility inauguration ceremony that had prompted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to boast of Iran's growing capacity to refine oil. According to Hamid Reza Katouzian, head of the Energy Commission of the Majles, Iran's parliament, "experts had forewarned that the Abadan refinery was not ready to be inaugurated."
The explosion underscored once again the lack of safe working conditions in Iran's oil and petrochemical industry. In addition, recent labor strikes have challenged the industry's reliance on temporary contracts for its labor force. In March, 1,800 contract workers at the Tabriz Petrochemical Complex demanded that they be hired directly in order to receive the benefits and job security provisions to which permanent employees are entitled. In April, 1,500 striking workers at the Imam Khomeini Port Petrochemical Complex located in Khuzestan near the Gulf made similar demands.
Most recently, factional conflicts within the Majles over control of the income generated from oil production have led to leadership changes in the Oil Ministry. First, Ahmadinejad dismissed the oil minister and appointed himself "caretaker for the Oil Ministry." When parliament deputies and the Guardian Council called this act illegal, he appointed one of his allies, Mohammad Ali Abadi, as the new temporary "caretaker." Below are excerpts from a recent interview with Iranian economist Mohammad Maljoo in which he addresses the state of labor in the oil industry. It was published in the May 2011 issue of the Tehran-based journal Mehrnameh. This translation was originally published by Tehran Bureau on June 5, 2011. http://to.pbs.org/iqcYcl
Iranian voices in translation, Tues Jun 7 2011