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IndustriALL on the offensive for Turkey mine safety

20 May, 2014The status quo must end in the global mining industry. The 301 miners murdered in Soma, Manisa, Turkey on 13 May would still be alive if the Turkish government and employers had put workers’ lives before profits. IndustriALL Global Union is taking action to push for urgent change to a dangerous industry.

Writing to the ILO Director-General Guy Ryder today, 20 May, IndustriALL demanded a more interventionist role from the ILO.

"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.  Trade unions are challenged to deliver on their promise to hold governments and companies to account and to save life and limb.  A global conversation is needed.
"The challenges are multifaceted ranging from, for example: the absence of a political will to address the regulatory and implementation of legislation; policy incoherence and coordination; the high unemployment rate in Turkey creating a vulnerable force of contract and sub-contracting labour force; the parasitic relationship between business and the government that breeds non-compliance with regulatory requirement; and the unbridled pursuit of profit at all costs."

At the Soma mine, IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan told survivors and the families of those lost:

IndustriALL stands with you in this time of mourning and commits full energy and resources to campaigning to end the killing of mineworkers. 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 we will campaign hard to make sure that action is taken.

It has been widely reported in international media that protests at the mine and in cities around Turkey have been violently put down by authorities as angry communities demand the government’s resignation following ignored safety warnings and years of inaction on mine safety. Now tight security control using tear gas and water cannons at the site of the disaster is preventing local people from demonstrating.

The detailed investigation into the cause of the accident is still on-going but initial analysis suggests that a transformer explosion was not the cause as previously believed. Smouldering coal igniting and causing a large explosion and the spread of carbon monoxide now seems to be the cause. Proper monitoring and ventilation is needed in coal mines to remove harmful and flammable gases, including carbon monoxide, released in the mining process.

The specific issue of dangerous conditions in the Soma mine was brought before the national parliament by an opposition party two weeks before the disaster and was dismissed by the ruling majority. Now the national prosecutor has made four arrests of the mine managers and safety engineers, who will face between three and 15 years in prison if found guilty for the charges brought against them. The prosecutor’s investigation continues but is being criticized as too narrow and not including the most serious charges available.

The day after the industrial homicide occurred at Soma, IndustriALL called for swift government action from the Turkish government to bring the country’s mining industry in line with international standards:

“The government of Turkey must act now and ratify ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines, and its accompanying Recommendation 183. This should be the first step in establishing a credible and effective legislative and regulatory framework on safe and healthy mines. In doing so now, you would pay a fitting tribute to those workers, who lost their lives while only trying to earn a living.”

On 22 May, IndustriALL Global Union together with sister organization IndustriAll Europe will take action at the Turkish Embassy and meet the Ambassador to the European Union. The joint demands for urgent ratification of ILO C176, and for a change in culture and attitudes towards trade unions in Turkey will be lodged with the Ambassador.

On 19-20 June IndustriALL Global Union will lead a solidarity mission to Soma with IndustriAll Europe and major mining union affiliates from around the world, to mourn with the families and community and to continue to push ratification of C176. IndustriALL Global Union has 19 trade union affiliates in Turkey.