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The System of Subcontracting: Wild Exploitation, Fatal Workplace Accidents!

The system of subcontracting is the name of a new war launched by bosses against workers. Its main objective is to generalise flexible work and make the worker completely the slave of an arbitrary work schedule. Bosses seek to eliminate job security by replacing permanent jobs with precarious jobs, thus cutting the wages and social benefits, lengthening the actual working week.

On 7th January, 8 miners were killed at a mine accident in Kozlu, Zonguldak. Their families were thrown into a deep sorrow and grief. The same grief haunts many working class families. Workplaces are operating like slaughterhouses. According to the reports of Labour Ministry 4 workers a day lose their lives at workplace accidents. That means that nearly 1500 workers a year come to be the victims of the greed of bosses. And the number of those who get injured and crippled at work is infinitely high. What is the difference between a bloody war and workplace accidents that cause so many deaths, injuries and mutilations? Obviously there is none in terms of their results. Most of the victims work for subcontractor companies. The more the system of subcontracting spreads the more the workplace accidents and fatalities rise. The 8 miners who were killed in Kozlu were also working for a subcontractor company, Star Mining, operating under the Turkish Hardcoal Enterprise, a government-owned company.

Comrade workers should clearly know that the system of subcontracting is the name of a new war launched by bosses against workers. Its main objective is to generalise flexible work and make the worker completely the slave of an arbitrary work schedule. Bosses seek to eliminate job security by replacing permanent jobs with precarious jobs, thus cutting the wages and social benefits, lengthening the actual working week. They also seek to prevent workers from getting united and unionised. In general, subcontractor companies employ less than 30 workers. Those workers who are employed by such companies are excluded from the benefits of being unionised by law since they are not allowed to utilise the right to collective bargaining. Even when they employ more than 30 workers the workers are distributed to so many different industries and workplaces on paper that these workers again cannot utilise the right to collective bargaining. So this system is introduced for weakening the working class and its positions, thus making capital grow without any fetter. The system of subcontracting has thus become as if a model of economic growth. The AKP government and organisations of capital such as MUSIAD (Association of Independent Businessmen), TUSİAD (Association of Industrialists and Businessmen of Turkey), TUSKON (Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey) have decided in complete agreement to spread this model. The system of subcontracting was introduced in 2003 as part of the new Labour Law by AKP government and now they seek to remove all the remaining barriers to its full implementation.

The system of subcontracting divides workers in many ways. Workers are divided into permanent and temporary ones and into many small companies operating in the same workplace. This is meant to reduce the cost of labour power. The main company divides the work into different parts and passes the bulk of production on to subcontractor companies. This allows the bosses to escape from the obligations of employing permanent workers and raise new barriers in front of workers in terms of getting unionised. The subcontractor companies employ workers by forming contracts for less than a year so they do not pay workers any benefits, most importantly the severance entitlements. Suffering from joblessness, workers are forced to swallow the hardship of the system of subcontracting, short-term contracts, lack of job security and low wages. Under these circumstances overtime comes into play. Workers are forced to accept to do overtime to be able to increase their earnings, although not much. Thus, while workers work for longer hours and collapse from exhaustion, bosses swell their profits by employing fewer workers for lower wages.

Subcontractor or not, all bosses try to avoid even necessary costs such as proper maintenance and taking necessary safety measures. They are always in search of avoiding their obligations. Even in many factories the safety sensors that limit the speed of machines are removed in order to work them at higher speeds. Hence workplace accidents become inevitable. Around 100 workers a month lose their lives, hundreds of them are crippled. And the AKP government turns a blind eye to these workplace accidents.

In recent years the Prime Minister addressed bosses and said “we will untie the shackles on your feet”. Hence, new regulations are on the agenda of the government that aim to smooth the way for them. To achieve this goal in a full manner the government prepared the package which is called “National Employment Strategy”. Within the context of the package workers’ severance entitlements will be transferred to a fund which will be leeched by capital; private employment offices (slave offices) will be established; regionally differing minimum wages will be introduced. Surely, the AKP government and bosses conceal their real intentions to mislead workers. For example, they say that all workers will now be able to get their severance payments when the fund is established. This is a lie. There is no doubt that this fund will be plundered by capital in a short time. The real aim is to relieve bosses from the burden of severance payments when they want to dismiss them. Thus, overall, the cost of the worker will be reduced for the boss.

Currently subcontractor companies are not allowed to do the main work or part of it. Now the government seeks to lift this limitation. Thus subcontracting companies will now be free to do the main work. This means that the system of subcontracting will be the main system of work. The system of subcontracting and private employment offices will complement each other. The main and even subcontractor companies will be able to hire workers from those offices instead of directly employing them. The bourgeoisie try to make Turkey a heaven for both domestic and foreign capital. This is the model in which the “successes” of Turkish economy and capital are based upon. 

As its economy grows, Turkey makes moves to have a stronger voice in the Middle East and world politics. That is to say, one of the main aims of growing the economy at the expense of the blood and lives of workers is to strengthen the imperialist policy of Turkey. But while this policy means new market and investment areas for bosses, it means, on the other hand, wild exploitation, longer work hours, lower wages, more workplace accidents, exhaustion, grief and tears for workers. So we should not be misled by the arrogant discourse of “Turkey is growing” which in fact means the growth of capital and bosses. On one condition can we defeat the plans carried out through intense exploitation of workers, put an end to the system of subcontracting, raise the wages and shorten the work hours: become more conscious workers, get organised and fight for our rights!

Translated from İşçi Dayanışması (Workers Solidarity) 58, 15 January 2013

16 February 2013






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