“We have accomplished it. The General Directorate of Turkish Coal Enterprises was able to produce a ton of coal for $130-140 in Soma. We won the tender and committed to producing a ton of coal at the cost of #23.80. We did it.”
It was during an interview by a daily Hürriyet colleague Vahap Munyar when the owner of the mine in Soma, where more than 200 miners have died, businessman Alp Gürkan, was explaining the magical formula of how he made the mine that was losing money under public ownership a profitable one, basing it on “productivity.”
The word Gürkan is emphasizing is the number one motto of the capitalism that grew even wilder after 1980.
Actually, there is no magic or anything else there.
In the past, while 10 people did one job, now, one person does the job of 10 people.
In the past, there was a worker, because he was unionized, working under a humane wage; now, instead of him, there are hundreds of thousands of workers waiting at the door content with minimum wage just because he has found a job.
The government’s target is big though, pledged to create capital accumulation in a short time, and time is running. In 2023, we will be the 10th biggest economy. In other words, everything is allowed for growth…
They have been crying out loud for years. For years, they have been trying to make their voices heard. Because trade unions have been almost completely destroyed after Sept. 12, 1980, they are trying to get organized through the Internet; they fight against the tear gas and the TOMA (riot control vehicle) in their search for justice.
They die every day, in construction, in dockyards and in mines. Caught in the wheels of the magical word “productivity,” they die in tens and they die in hundreds under an excessive work load, under timed pressure.
We have written numerous times over the years. Turkey is first in Europe regarding labor accidents and third in the world.
The number of those who lose their lives in labor related murders is increasing. According to the Labor Accident Almanac, in 2012, the number of deaths was 878. In 2013, it was 1,235, out of them, 103 were women, 59 minors and 22 of them were migrants.
These are the recorded ones, indeed. There are also those who are forced to be taken to private hospitals and there are families that are threatened and silenced with “blood money.”
For this reason, it is not surprising that one of the first statements the government issued in Soma was that 1,000 Turkish Liras monthly will be given to the families.
Associations have launched campaigns to explain these issues. A petition with 100,000 signatures was sent to Parliament. Their voices seemed as though they were heard. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) passed the Occupational Health and Safety Law, but accidents did not decrease. However, the laws issued were not protecting them; they were protecting the bosses.
The law called for training. Non-functional training just for show were conducted, then the worker was forced to sign saying he had received training. Then, in any accident, it was always the worker’s fault. Remember the dockyard deaths…
Control by occupational safety experts was made compulsory. A new sector of occupational safety was born. Control was handed over to sub-contracting firms. What happened, then? Now, control certificates are sent by post.
In other words, workplaces are no longer checked. Even though there are hundreds of thousands of workplaces and millions of workers, the number of experts allocated by the Labor Ministry for occupational health and safety is only 250. Who will monitor the controllers is another mystery.
Occupational accidents have now become atrocities.
Let us all remember: What have the workers wanted for years? They demand their most fundamental rights; which is “decreasing working hours [which sometimes reach 12 hours], taking the most fundamental of labor safety measures and that machines are maintained regularly before workers are allowed to operate them.”
They do not ask for wage hikes; they want their lives to be guaranteed.
The Soma murder which torched our hearts has slapped these truths on our faces once again.
However, it seems that this horrible accident or murder is also being based on “fate.” It is trying to be circumvented by a “three-day national mourning period” and made to be forgotten, just as hundreds of accidents before, as the explosions in Davutpaşa, OSTİM and İvedik, and the Shopping Mall construction tent fire in Esenyurt. Those responsible will never pay the price.
The number of workers’ families waiting for conscience and justice will only increase.
I am appealing to the authorities: To become a developed country, say, “Money does not come first;” say, “People come first.”