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100,000 signatures against work accidents

UID-DER’s campaign on work accidents has raised a nationwide interest. Several national newspapers and TV channels covered the issue including Radikal (a nationwide daily newspaper). A columnist, Jale Özgentürk, wrote an article about the campaign and UID-DER. Her article was translated into English and published in Hürriyet Daily News, the oldest English language daily newspaper in Turkey. The following is the English version of Özgentürk’s article published in Hürriyet Daily News.

The Association of International Workers Solidarity (UİD-DER) has gathered 100,000 signatures in the campaign against occupational accidents.

Turkey occupies the top place in Europe in work-related accidents and third in the world. Turkey is losing 100 workers every month. In just the first 10 months of 2013, the number of workers who have died in work-related accidents is 1017. In 10 years, around 11,000 workers have lost their lives.

These are the known ones, indeed. After a work-related accident, there are those who are forced to go to private hospitals or families who are threatened to keep quiet with “blood money.” All of these are unregistered incidents.

The figures are horrible, but they are cold. If your heart can stand it, try listening to their stories. I listened to Eylem Pınar and Akif Mehmet Eminli, two very young workers and members of the association.

While Eylem was working at a factory she caught the tennis elbow disease. However, this is not listed as an occupational disease. She lost her job. The number of occupational diseases is only 533 in Turkey, while it is 40,000 in Europe.

Akif is a textile worker; he lost his job during one of the frequently practiced downsizings. He is now leading the theater activities of the association.

Akif and Eylem first explain what their friends have suffered. Stories of those who are forced to continue working even though they have lost fingers one by one from the machine, a 20-year-old worker who has just arrived from his village without any skills is asked to operate machinery without any training and dies on his second day at the job, and stories of those who burned to death inside their residential tent at Esenyurt.

The association is now focusing on work-related accidents because things have gotten out of control.
The accidents have turned into savagery. They started a campaign nine months ago, “Occupational accidents are not a fate. Let’s stop labor deaths!”

Akif highlighted the dimensions the figures have reached, “Even at war, you do not lose so many people.” Workers are sent to death Akif claimed, adding while Turkey is growing, work accidents have also boosted.

The campaign is focusing on these facts: Even though there are hundreds of thousands of work places and millions of workers they were not able to monitor, the number of experts the Labor Minister allocates for occupational health and safety is only 250. They want to raise awareness regarding work accidents and occupational diseases. They will draw attention to the fact the numbers are much higher than the known ones. They want to highlight the heaviest fine for bosses who violate the law is only 2,000 Turkish Liras.

The workers want to explain to the employer and to the government these accidents can be prevented when necessary measures are taken and when checks are performed. They are also restating the words of Labor Minister Faruk Çelik, “98 percent of work accidents are preventable.”

The workers demand working hours, which sometimes reach up to 12 hours, should be decreased, the most fundamental work safety measure be taken and machines should be stopped from operating if their maintenance is not properly done.

They have reached 100,000 signatures very easily in the signature campaign. They were able to create a serious awareness in the public.

These signatures will be handed over to the BDP and HDP deputies in Parliament.

It looks as if the laborer in Turkey has only one fate. When a worker finds a job in Turkey, then they work at the cost of their life.

In every work place, signs are put up, “Job safety first.” Why are “First human life” or “First, the worker” not written? Why?

Jale Özgentürk is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published on Nov. 21. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

JALE ÖZGENTÜRK







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