Union protests safety conditions in Tuzla

20.06.2008

More than 5,000 supporters join the strike action in the Tuzla shipyards calling for better health and safety.

TURKEY: More than 5,000 supporters joined 300 shipyard workers in their strike action on June 16 in the Tuzla shipyards protesting high rates of work-related deaths and injuries.

A total of 99 workers have died in the Tuzla shipyards since 1992. The sub-contracting system and noncompliance with safety regulations are seen as the major causes of the deaths in Tuzla.

The workers and their supports gathered at 7.00am, closing the main street and marching to the shipyards in Tuzla. The action was organized by Limter İş, the union representing shipbuilding workers in the yards, and was supported by numerous other organisations including members of parliament, trade unions, artists, academics and international observers.

While some shipyard workers participated in the protest, the majority of workers had been picked up from their homes by the employers' service vehicles at 5am. Other workers were transported to work by the sea and therefore unable to particulate in the rally. While there was a strong police presence at the protest, they did not intervene in the strike. The action finished at 2.30pm.

Cem Dinç, head of Limter İş, gave a speech at the rally, saying, "we have been fighting against irregularity, injustice and exploitation for 16 years. Employers say that workers are illiterate and unconscious. We must ask them: If we are illiterate and unconscious, how are we making these ships? Actually employers of shipyards are illiterate and unconscious. Actually employers of shipyards must be educated."

Four days later, on June 19, the Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan met with ship building company representatives, but not the union, to discuss the deaths at the Tuzla shipyards. After the meeting the Prime Minister announced an urgent action plan including health and safety education, an increase in the number of safety inspectors and plans to declare Tuzla an industrial area with corresponding regulations.