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Suffering of Soma survivors continues

19 February, 20152,800 Turkish miners who lost their jobs at Soma have been denied severance pay by the mine’s operator. It follows the deaths of 301 miners at the mine last year.

Miners learnt they were being laid off by the Soma Holding Company via text message on 1 December. The company has since refused to compensate them, saying that its assets have been frozen.

Soma miners from IndustriALL’s Turkish affiliate Maden-Is marched in front of parliament and the Ministry of Labour in Ankara on 10 February to demand compensation, which according to Maden-Is amounts to roughly US$17 million.

However, mining regulations should also guarantee that the state-owned Turkish Coal Enterprises (TKi) step in and give the miners what they are due.

While Soma Holding and TKi argue over who should pay, the miners and their families are suffering over winter without any income.

"Don't continue to victimize the surviving Soma miners and pay their severance payments," demanded Nurettin Akcul, General President of the Turkish mineworkers’ union, Maden-Is, in his call to the Government. "All the dismissed miners must have jobs.”

The industrial homicide at Soma on 13 May 2014 was the country’s worst mining disaster. An explosion and carbon monoxide poisoning in the mine, in Turkey’s western Manisa province, led to the deaths of 301 miners, with many more injured.

Many of the families of these dead miners have yet to receive compensation.

An independent report into the disaster listed point after point of gross negligence surmising that accident was entirely preventable. Miners died needlessly from carbon monoxide poisoning due to inadequate ventilation systems and broken gas masks. Exits were blocked, warning systems were faulty and safety reports were consistently fabricated.

IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, Kemal Ôzkan, said:

Withholding severance pay to the sacked miners at Soma simply adds insult to injury. The government must step in, take responsibility and see that the miners are properly compensated. Many of them have already lost family and friends in the industrial homicide at Soma. Now they have lost their jobs. To let these miners go a whole winter without pay is further proof of contempt for their welfare.

The Turkish public prosecutor’s office is currently investigating the disaster. Soma Holding, meanwhile, denies blame saying that there is no proof that safety procedures were violated.