Key mining trade unions from around the world joined IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll Europe in a solidarity mission to the Soma mine site in Turkey, one month on from the mass killing of 301 mineworkers in an avoidable industrial disaster.
The mission delivered a message of international anger to Turkey’s political authorities and public opinion, calling for immediate action including ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 176 on safety and health in mines. Illegal and irresponsible outsourcing and subcontracting in the country must also be seriously tackled and reversed by the Turkish authorities.
The IndustriALL delegation met with the Parliamentary Commission which has been formed specifically for investigating the mining accident in Soma. The chair and members of the commission heard experiences in different countries on how improvement in mine safety has been managed through active workers’ involvement. The delegates also met with Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources as well as ILO representatives from Geneva and Ankara.
IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan stated at the Soma site:
Turkey’s mining industry must see a change of business model. In recent years the unbridled privatization, subcontracting, and cutting corners on health and safety have together transferred value from the Turkish people to private investors. Hundreds of workers have paid with life and limb for this unfair and unsustainable model. We reject this model and will campaign hard to replace it. Every mine accident is avoidable and the responsibility lies with government and the employer.
Today, 25 June, the Executive Committee of IndustriALL Global Union discussed the International’s action on mine safety in Turkey in the wake of Soma and committed to a concerted campaign for ratification of ILO Convention 176.
IndustriALL mine sector chair Andrew Vickers, of CFMEU Australia, supported the Executive Committee Emergency Resolution that was unanimously adopted: “The commentary of the prime minister that miners’ destiny is to die in mines disgusts us. The responsibility for the disaster lies with the employer and the government. If it wasn’t murder, it was certainly manslaughter. Let’s hope and campaign that this does not happen again.”
IndustriALL immediately called on the ILO, the day after the mine explosion, to take a leadership role in delivering change in Turkey:
The recent carnage in Soma, on the back of Turkey’s bleak safety record, should mobilize action across the world to deal holistically with the unacceptable rate of fatalities in the mining industries. Mine workers are counting on the ILO to honour its historic mission.
Instead of properly investigating the tragic incident and taking responsibility for the 301 deaths, the Turkish government has conducted a malicious campaign of misinformation shifting blame onto the local trade union in Soma. Turkish authorities violently put down popular demonstrations in Soma and around Turkey in the weeks following the disaster, maintaining order at the mine with water cannons and tear gas.
An equally strong message of condolence and solidarity was delivered to families of the killed mineworkers and to the IndustriALL affiliated Mineworkers’ Union of Turkey whose members were killed on 13 May.
A safe mine, where employers are sincere about monitoring and repairing hazards, will never trap and kill its workers. The responsibility for the lives of mineworkers lies with the government and the employer. Action and investment is needed to ensure this will never happen again and IndustriALL will campaign hard to make sure that action is taken.
Together with IndustriALL’s Kemal Ökan, and mining director Glen Mpufane, the mission participants were: IndustriALL mining sector chair Andrew Vickers from CFMEU of Australia, Ulrich Eckelmann, General Secretary of IndustriAll European Trade Union, USW’s Joe Drexler from North America, South African NUM’s Erick Gcilitshanavalve and Martha Lialda, Russian ROSUGLEPROF’s Ivan Mokhnachuk and Katerina Mizuna, and IG BCE’s Michael Mersmann.
“The presence of the IndustriALL Mission has given us courage and motivation for our struggle in the mining industry” said Nurettin Akcul, General President and Kenan Dikbiyik, International & Technical Advisor of Maden-Is.