Over 5,000 Iranian retirees who formerly worked for Iran’s Education Ministry, Armed Forces, Nursing Organization and other state bodies held another large demonstration outside the country’s parliament building in Tehran on Tuesday morning [February 28] to protest against low pension levels and demand fairer allocation from the 2017 budget. Retired civil servants from the Ministry of Industry and Mining, along with former nurses, paramedics and fraud victims of the ‘Padideh Shandiz’ telecommunication company were also among the protesters at the latest demonstration against the government’s controversial austerity budget.
According to a report by the Free Union of Iranian Workers, the retirees traveled from cities and areas across Iran, including Tehran, Karaj, Esfahan, Mazandaran, Gilan, Kurdistan, East Azerbaijan, Ilam, Khorasan, and Mashhad, to attend the demonstration. The protesters chanted slogans outlining their demands, including, “Poverty line: 4 million, our salary: 1 million” (Income=$270, Poverty Line=$1080), “Retirees rise up to stop discrimination!”, “Less embezzlement, fewer problems for us!”, “No nation has seen this much injustice!”, “MPs, shame on you! Do justice!”, “When it’s our turn, the treasury is empty”, and “National TV, make our voice heard!”
» Retirees under poverty line
A large number of Iran’s pensioners are already living under the poverty line, with the past few years seeing regular protests against the meagre pension levels. The announcement of the new austerity budget for 2017 has prompted even greater anger, with Tuesday’s protest outside the parliament being the second demonstration over salaries and pensions within a week; the first on February 21 saw retired teachers, as well as nurses and workers in a number of other fields, gather to protest against low salaries and pensions and demand increases in both.
On February 26, a director of legal affairs from the country’s Civil Servants Pension Organization announced that 8,000 rulings issued by the Administrative Court ordering an increase in individual retirees pensions are currently in abeyance due to a lack of funds.
The judiciary and government have suspended payment of the increased pensions ordered by the Administrative Court, estimated at 35 trillion Tomans [one Toman = 10 Rials], arguing that the state lacks the funds to enable payment of these monies.
Speaking during Tuesday’s protest outside the parliament, Amir Farhangi, the chairperson of the Ministry of Education’s Retirees Association, criticized the 2017 budget allocation for the ministry, saying that the association has no answer for retirees demanding fairer treatment. Farhangi added that the number of retired education ministry personnel is increasing, rising to 35,000-40,000 per year and that the retirement lump sum, which should be paid to them, can only be paid if it is ratified by parliament and included in the ministry’s budget.
At around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, the parliament’s security force declared the protest illegal and asked the participants to disperse, but the officers were booed by all the retirees and decided to allow them to continue. A number of parliamentarians also attended the rally to show their support for the protester’s demands, with some of the retirees’ representatives meeting with the MPs. The demonstration ended at 4 p.m.