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Iranian laborers mark May Day in front of Majlis

5/1/01 Tehran, May 1, IRNA -- Several thousand Iranian laborers gathered peacefully in front of the parliament (Majlis) Tuesday to mark the May Day and raise their objections to certain clauses of the state Labor Law which, they say, has aggravated the runaway unemployment in Iran, IRNA correspondents witnessed.

They were chanting slogans to catch the attention of officials to the status of laborers.

"We call upon the officials to heed the demands of the laborers and meet their needs," said a resolution read out in front of Majlis.

Reformist MP Elias Hazrati told the laborers that concurrently with the Labor Day, MPs have raised a bill to amend the tax law which, he said, would play an important role in tax cuts for workers.

"The Majlis has approved a bill on `early retirement' for people in professionally-classified "hard" jobs in the list of jobs by Iran's Social Security Organization," he said.

800,000 of the total six million wage earners in Iran who are subject to National Social Security Organization laws are engaged in hard or hazardous jobs 54,000 of them to be hereafter protected under the bill.

According to the bill, wage earners engaged in hard jobs for 20 years uninterruptedly or 25 years intermittently would qualify for retirement irrespective of their age.

The secretary-general of the `Labor Club', Ali-Reza Mahjoub noted that during the last Iranian calendar year which ended March 20, the Majlis did not approve any bill in favor of the laborers.

The resolution called for repatriation of foreign nationals who, it said, have occupied around two million jobs.

The unemployment rate is estimated around 16 percent, according to official reports.

"The illegal foreign workers should be barred from continuing activities in Iran and be faced heavy punishments," it noted.

Iran is home to the largest population of refugees and displaced persons in the world -- around 1.3 million Afghans and 500,000 Iraqis in Iran.

Under a joint program launched with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees last year, nearly 200,000 Afghans have been repatriated while more than a million immigrants without papers have been given identification papers in more than 200 cities and towns.

The Iranian laborers were also protesting against a bill approved by Majlis which exempted workshops with three or less workers from the Labor Law.

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