A whopping 1,700 workers at the Wagon Pars Company, based in Arak, have reportedly gone on hunger strike in protest of the company’s failure to pay their wages and pension benefits. This comes after an August incident when workers prevented managers from entering the factory by blocking the main entrance.
The executive director of the company has already confirmed that there is a two-month lag in worker payments. He has put the blame on the company's controlling stockholders.
Founded a few years before the revolution, Wagon Pars expanded operations in 1984 with a joint investment with Iran Development and Renovation Organization (IDRO) and the Islamic Republic of Iran Rail Road organization. Although the company may still be private despite these investments, it serves as a useful prism for the untapped potential of further public disobedience. It should be remembered that Revolutionary Guard front companies have gradually been eating away at Iran's GDP. Today, a large portion of the economy has been essentially quasi-nationalized, with most profits going to paramilitary oligarchs. Mousavi's earlier calls for national strikes (calls which never materialized) are therefore still significant.
Schisms are already forming between traditional conservatives of the Khomeini-line and the ruling fringe of the right. Thus far, it has been the paramilitary apparatus that has strengthened Ahmadinejad's (and Khamenei's) grip on power. But should these forces -- in the face of widespread strikes -- put profits before political loyalty, then the coup administration would likely have yet another challenge to its authority. But with inflation at 28% and unemployment rumored to actually be around 20%, Iran's population (the Greens included) can hardly afford the undertaking at this point, and such a front opening is not currently foreseeable. At the same time, if events persist, it should not be forgotten just how crippling the oil industry's strike against the Shah was in 1978.