Planned changes to criticized subcontractor system stir controversy

Planned changes to criticized subcontractor system stir controversy

Planned changes to criticized subcontractor system stir controversy

Photo shows a woman holding banners during a protest against subcontractor system following Soma disaster. AA Photo

A draft law that foresees fundamental changes to the much-criticized subcontractor labor system in Turkey has sparked debate, amid outcry over the issue prompted by the May 13 Soma mine disaster.

While defenders of the draft say it will curtail the subcontractor system, critics suggest that it will actually encourage the system to spread.

The draft law jointly produced by the Treasury, the Finance Ministry and the Labor Ministry will change the Labor Law in a way to pave the way for the employment of subcontractor workers in core businesses and in all sectors, on the condition that they receive equal wages and are treated the same as regular employees.

Government officials have defended the plan, saying it will end the attraction of subcontracting from a cost standpoint by imposing and maintaining equal salary and equal safety measures for all.

One of the proposed articles states that “wages and social rights given to the worker of a subcontracted company cannot be lower than the wage and social benefits of a counterpart worker at the main employer.”

An official at the Labor Ministry said this would help alleviate the problem of the subcontractor system. “Why would a boss employ a subcontractor for its main job if the amount of money he gives is the same? Why would he prefer to include a subcontractor company that won’t cost him less?” he asked.

Officials have been working on the draft for months, but the Soma disaster that killed 301 workers has placed labor conditions in the country under the spotlight, raising public attention about the draft.

The system has been slammed for forcing workers to work under poor conditions and lower wages for years.

Workers, unions and civil society organizations have raised their voices after experiencing the consequences of a lack of safety measures and insufficient oversight over labor standards in the deadliest mining disaster in Turkey’s history.

Critics say the new draft will enable employers to employ subcontractor workers in all sectors by lifting conditions about employing subcontractors.

According to current legislation, a company must fulfill three conditions to be able to employ subcontractors, related to the company’s business field, the type of work done, and the technical aspects. If the employer appears to be employing subcontractors for its core business, the current law requires that the employer add subcontracted workers to its permanent staff.

However, the new draft is set to lift these conditions, enabling companies to employ subcontracted workers in the industrial, textile, media, health and construction sectors along with their own employees; alternatively, they can transfer a complete branch to a subcontractor.

In the event of parliamentary approval, nurses, doctors and journalists could all become subcontracted professions.

Despite worries about the spread of subcontracting, civil servants from the Labor Ministry have insisted that the draft is aimed at limiting the practice, rather than encouraging it.