A culture of profits over people in Turkey’s mining industry once again has resulted in probable deaths. Eighteen trapped miners are 300 metres below the surface at the mine near the town of Ermenek in Karaman province.
Twenty workers have either been rescued or escaped on their own from the flooded coalmine, but hopes are fading for the remaining 18 trapped underground. Although water is being pumped out, the risk grows as time passes with the men still underground. There has been no contact established with the trapped eighteen.
The cause has not yet been established of the water surging into the mine. But it is the strong belief and argument of IndustriALL Global Union that every mine accident is preventable.
Over 3,000 people have been killed and over 100,000 have received various injuries since 1941 to the present day in mining accidents in Turkey. There are 740 coalmines and 48,706 miners in in the country.
It is less than six months since the industrial homicide at Soma that killed 301 Turkish mineworkers on 13 May; now eighteen miners are trapped in the flooded Has Sekerler coalmine.
Just recently, the Turkish Cabinet sent a draft bill to the Parliament to ratify ILO Convention 176 on Safety in Mines after effective struggle and lobbying by global and national unions together with strong public opinion. However it is still pending on the agenda of the Parliament.
The International Labour Organization earlier this month organized a National Tripartite Meeting on Improving Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) in Mining in Turkey. Government, workers’ and employers’ representatives and other relevant stakeholders concluded with agreement on the main elements of a roadmap on how to improve occupational safety and health in the industry.
Furthermore, the Turkish Parliament in September passed a bill that brings some new rights for miners on working hours, severance payments, retirement age, lowest wage to be double the legal minimum wage, as well as some legal entitlements for Soma victims and their families. However a comprehensive approach for health and safety issues in mines is still missing.
IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan stated:
The attention of the world’s media is once again turned to the senseless danger that Turkey’s mineworkers are put under by an unregulated industry. Now it is simply not an option for Turkey’s government to ignore the calls for action on safety and health in mines. The urgent first step must be the ratification and implementation of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 176 that will bring the industry in line with international standards. Workers lives are not a commodity to be traded off against expenditure on safety.
IndustriALL Global Union is sending letters to the Turkish Parliament Speaker, Prime Minister, leaders of opposition parties with factions at the Parliament, and individual members of Parliament to accelerate the process of ratification.