Grave realities the Soma disaster has revealed

Grave realities the Soma disaster has revealed

As the reasons for the Soma disaster are being questioned, every day, one by one, the grave realities that caused the accident are emerging. It is understood that several mistakes were made, from the physical conditions of the mines, to employer-employee relations, to the functions of the trade union, to the state control; actors in the system not performing their duties.

At the latest, on May 26, the workers who were called again to go underground and work in the mines rebelled and staged serious protests. While the Aegean mid-management and the administration of Maden-İş union resigned, the general manager of Turkish Coal Enterprises (TKİ) Aegean Lignite Management was asked to resign.

Meanwhile, according to a story published in daily Hürriyet on the same day, it was revealed that one of the executives of the mine where the disaster occurred and the labor inspector checking the mine happened to be close relatives.

Before anything else, we have to admit the current system is as inhuman as to even violate the right to life. The ruined system that was formed has been further ruined with practices; and as seen frequently, the triangle of businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians has stepped in and a wheel of unearned income and irregularities has been created.

Otherwise, it is not possible to extract 3.5 million tons of coal, with the authorization of the Ministry of Energy and TKİ, from a pit that produces 1.5 million tons of coal annually when the infrastructure of the mine is suitable for this latter figure. The production figures of the past year openly disclose that the lives and safety of workers have been risked blatantly and this could not have been possible without the approval of top level executives. It is apparent that the infrastructure of the pit, the shortcomings in ventilation and the lack of rescue chambers are absolutely even below the production of 1.5 million tons. Actually one does not need to be an engineer or labor inspector to see the infrastructure and safety measures, which were not adequate for the 1.5 million tons, will be much more inadequate and life-threatening when 3.5 million tons of coal are produced.  

Finding scapegoats not enough

The utmost truth that the disaster has disclosed is that no one has done their duties. It is certain the employer who made so much production and knowingly risked the lives of his workers, as well as the TKİ and the Energy Ministry, which gave permission to this employer, are all guilty. The responsibilities of the Labor and Social Security Ministry and labor inspectors, which organized a non-functional check system, were not even able to operate, are obvious.

Additionally, the regional union offices that did not report these inconveniences and overlooked them, the executives of the headquarters of the trade union and Türk-İş, who had only appointed five people to the administration of this major regional office, all five known to be “yes men” of the boss, are all at fault.

It is maybe also our fault as the media because we did not adequately question why the people in the region were made so desperate, why they had to work for such a dangerous job despite the low pay and the physical conditions and safety measures of the mines.

But the greatest responsibility lies with the government, which has apparently practiced partisanship in the region, which pushed physical conditions to the limit and which has not taken preventative measures. It seems as if this disaster will be closed solely by finding a few “scapegoats.” We will see…