Slaves of modern times

Slaves of modern times

Last week, newspaper headlines reported the deaths of 10 workers who died when an elevator fell at the Torun Center residence, an office construction site where they were working, the site of the old Ali Sami Yen Stadium in Mecidiyeköy.  

Sadly, I now read again in headlines that five workers in four cities – Istanbul, Konya, Kırşehir and Zonguldak – have died in construction in the past two days.

Not a day passes in Turkey in which at least one worker doesn’t lose his life. Turkey holds the record of worker deaths in Europe in all lines of work, with 1,235 deaths recorded in 2013.

In the first eight months of 2014, this figure reached 1,269. I’m afraid we will exceed this figure by the end of 2014.

Every day we are living and seeing the truth of the words of Professor Ayşe Kadıoğlu, dean of the Art and Social Sciences Department at Sabancı University, when she described “merciless growth,” particularly after the Soma mine disaster.

The construction sector, which neglects worker safety, health and inspection, is effectively the “damned” locomotive of economy. It is the sector with the most workers’ deaths. Nevertheless, deaths also occur in the most unexpected sectors in this country.

I don’t know about you, but it is a “worker’s murder” for me when set worker Engin Küçüktopuz lost his life shooting one of the country’s most popular soap operas due to a heart attack after working 45 hours without sleeping.  

Dr. Erdal Atabek, who defined the dead workers as “today’s slaves” in his column yesterday, is quite right.

The “contemporary slaves” that the Western media often highlights are not only in Dubai or Qatar.  
The mine workers who died in Soma and the construction workers who died because of an unchecked elevator are all “slaves of modern times.”

Could the inconvenient working conditions of these workers and the lack of inspection exist in any Western country? Workers are working at the cost of their lives to erect the modern Torun Center at Mecidiyeköy. 

As a matter of fact, real estate tycoon Larry Silverstein, owner of the World Trade Center in New York, said it was 100 years ago that mortal accidents occurred in construction sites in the U.S.
Labor Minister Faruk Çelik has warned employers, saying, “Those who prioritize money ahead of workers will have to leave.”

Well, what happens if the employer is TOKİ, the Housing Development Administration, working under the Office of the Prime Ministry?

The construction where 10 workers died is a partnership of TOKİ and Torunlar GYO. There are rumors that TOKİ took its share of 520 million Turkish Liras and withdrew from the project.

However, according to main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Mahmut Tanal’s official complaint about TOKİ and Torunlar, the title deed of the plot belongs to TOKİ.

It is a huge problem that TOKİ is exempt from independent inspection, as a government agency that has built 623,000 homes in 11 years as well as 972 schools, 265 hospitals, 166 dormitory buildings and 985 sports halls. 

Another problem, again in Tanal’s official complaint, is that some construction sites are allowed to work around the clock for the sake of the “public interest.” The article of “public interest” from which TOKİ benefits has also been extended to Torunlar.

I have not been able to understand why the construction of residences and offices are considered to be in the “public interest.”

Who can deny that workers at these construction sites are “slaves of modern times?”