Iranian workers submitted a 10,000-strong petition to the labour minister today in a rare but wide-reaching public outcry over the state of the country's beleaguered economy.
The protest shows a growing anger among Iran's vast and potentially powerful working class at the mismanagement of the economy by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as his government struggles to cope with the latest Western sanctions - targeting critical oil exports and international banking networks.
Labour rights activist and pipefitter Jafar Azimzadeh warned of stronger fallout if the government does not find ways to prop up salaries and rein in prices.
"Workers would not stay at the level of writing petitions," he said. "They would go toward street gatherings and other actions."
"A staggering increase in prices has been biting as wages of workers have only increased 13 per cent this year," said the petition, which was circulated secretly in factories and workshops across Iran.
It added: "Millions of workers cannot afford their monthly housing costs."
Unskilled factory workers in Iran make an average monthly wage of three million (£150) to 7m rials (£350).
The official poverty line is about 10m rials (£500) per month.
Official reports put Iran's inflation rate at 23 per cent, but Iran's parliament speaker last week estimated it as close to 29 per cent.
The unemployment rate is officially 12 per cent, but some economists place it nearly three times higher.
"When we do not have rights for major protest rallies and strikes, a petition is the only way," said Parvin Mohammadi, a retired metalworker and one of the organisers.
The petition's signatories included miners across the country, food and textile producers in Tehran and central Iran and bus drivers in Tabriz.
Labour groups also object to changes in Iran's already weak labour laws, which give employers a freer hand in firing workers and would cut annual leave to 20 days from 30 days.
MP Ali Reza Mahjoub said he would lead a fight against the changes, with possibly more street protests.
Iranian officials have made no comment on the petition, but some MPs have given the petition their support.
And MP Abbas Ali Mansouri said higher wages are needed "while workers are falling under the poverty line."
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