Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Soma Mine Tragedy, Turkey

This is just the latest tragedy that is the daily life of Turkish workers. And to understand this, all you have to do is open your eyes and look around you. At no work site are the basics of safety equipment like hard hats, safety glasses, or safety shoes. Workers routinely climb up on scaffolding with no thought of 'tying off' with a safety belt. It is normal for workers to work 10-12 hours per days, with a half day on Saturday. Others work seven days a week, when they can find work. Workers are forced to work in unsafe conditions by fat cat bosses who care nothing for them or their families.

Just in 2013, 1,235 workers were killed on the job in Turkey, almost 4 every single day. Turkey holds the worst workplace safety record of any country in Europe. Of the approximately 5,000 occupational accidents that happened in the Soma district where the accident happened, 90% of them were in the mines. This particular accident occurred because an electrical transformer blew up, causing a fire and disabling ventilators and elevators which could have evacuated workers. The ruling AK Party had recently voted down a proposal in parliament for an official investigation into the high number of occupational accidents in the mines of Soma district.

Soma Mine is one of the largest mines in Turkey with over 3000 workers. The mine's owner is Soma Kömür Işletmeleri, one of Turkey's largest mining corporations. After this mine was privatized some years ago, according to CEO Ali Gürkan in a 2012 interview, the company was able to reduce the price of producing coal from $130 per ton to $24 per ton by manufacturing their own electrical transformers rather than importing them and adopting the business model of employing non-union sub-contractors to do the heavy work at lower pay than members of the miners' union, Maden-İş. This weakening of the union has naturally led to speed-up and lower standards of workplace safety.

Çetin Uygur, former head of the union, said "The mining accident that we have seen at this private facility today is truly a work-related murder of the highest degree. We are currently facing the worst work-related murder in the country's history."

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