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Turkish Shipyard Workers Go on Strike to Stop Deaths

category international | workplace struggles | news report author Sunday June 08, 2008 03:21author by Sevinc Karaca - WSM-Cork Personal Capacityauthor email nazire.sevinc at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

82 Shipyard workers were killed in accidents at work

Turkish National Shipyard Workers go on strike on 16th of June to stop workplace deaths in Tuzla, near Istanbul in Turkey. [ Ελληνικά]

There had been 11 deaths since the Minister of Employment and Social Security promised the issue was going to be handled by the ministry and the workers would be listened to on 8th of September last and 82 in total in the last 5 years since the jobs were handed over to the subcontractors as part of government's privatization programme..

Limter-Is, the main union on the site, and the Shipyard Workers' Council called for an open ended national strike to stop work place deaths in the shipyards due to the lack of safety equipment and reckless and arrogant disregard to safety regulations which is shown by the shipyard management, subcontractors and the Ministry authorities. The workers went on a two days strike action end of February after 5 deaths in that month alone. The fascist religious government and the national media remained silent on the deaths until they were confronted with further organized action, protest by the families of the deceased workers and huge national and international support. 70 workers were arrested and one worker was run over by a car belonging to one of the subcontractors in February. The police not only arrested the workers and all properties of the Limter-Is was confiscated by the police and union officials were arrested as well. The “not so media savvy” representatives of the subcontractors, who are responsible for these deaths, placed the blame on workers with idiotic conspiracy theories. The government backed right wing union appeared on the site after years of silence on the deaths to distribute membership forms and sat at the meeting with the minister and the representatives of the Association of Shipyard Subcontractors, a shady unheard group.

Workers in Turkey face tremendous pressure to make demands for basic workers' rights such as workplace safety, job security and better pay for a minimum standard of living. They face arrests, lock-outs and losing their jobs. The shipyard workers are taking this action to stop deaths face death themselves. Two officials and activist of the Turkish Syndicate of Transport workers TÜMTIS, were among the hundreds who were arrested during the May Day celebration this year in Istanbul.
For messages of support and solidarity, fundraise events for the families of the killed workers and the workers who are going on strike on the 16th of june contact, and (The Council). Please spread the word. Author of this piece will be happy to translate messages for the workers (max. 200 words please, she is swamped!)

author by enderpublication date Sun Jun 08, 2008 14:34Report this post to the editors

thanks for publishing this issue. we prepared a website about the coming strike at 16th of june. you can see it at the end of the comment. we'll soon put english material about the accidents, tuzla shipyards and history of limter-is. we would be pleased about messages from other mass organizations.

i have to make a little correction about the issue. the death toll reached 96 on the 18th of may. your remarks on state and media silence/repression are generally true, but i believe we also need to include the importance of the conflicts among dominant classes in turkey. the work accidents or murders became an issue after the may day of 2007. the akp government was totally against the legalization of taksim square for may day celebrations, but disk confederation seemed to be determined about it. on may day the state was utterly pathetic and couldnt even use violence in a modern way i.e. categorization of the population, physical and discursive isolation of dissident groups, selective use of violence etc. combined with the "II. post-modern coup" or the "I. e-coup" at the end of april the violence at may day became a big issue for the mainstream media. after that deaths of workers entered from the cracks generated by these conflicts: firstly the massive deaths of seasonal agricultural workers in traffic accidents, because tens of them were piled in trucks. and then 5 workers in the shipyards died in 12 days. of course we counldnt reach this level without the struggles of shipyard workers and their organizations, but attributing it solely to our side will just create illusions about our strength.

actually the shipyard workers are just the head of the iceberg. according to the official statistics more than a thousand workers die in turkey. this number does not include the deaths due to professional diseases. there is not system to count or cure them. according to the world statistics these diseases kill five times more than the work accidents, so the real death toll for the working class of turkey is about 6 thousand a year.

in solidarity!

ps: a last note about the organisations in tuzla: all three workers' organisations are controlled by different leninist groups.

limter-is (the union) is the biggest. it has 1360 members in the documented 17500 workers in the shipyards. but the real number is probably between 40 and 50 thousand. their press declarations generally do not include more than 100 workers, but in the last decade they also organized marches with up to 5 thousand workers. hopefully the coming strike will be a new peak.

tib-der (shipyard workers' unity association) is more like a socio-political org rather than a union. the shipyard workers' council has no real base. their public activity began in the last half year.

Related Link:
author by enderpublication date Sun Jun 08, 2008 22:05Report this post to the editors

...and today another worker died: A cover weighting half a ton fell on 35-years-old İhsan Turhan.

author by Sevinc Karaca - WSM-Personal capacitypublication date Mon Jun 09, 2008 15:46author email nazire.sevinc at gmail dot comReport this post to the editors

Merhaba Ender,
Thanks for the comment and corrections. I have pulled the figures and information from Limter-Is website, National Turkish Media, The Workers' Council Website and a number of leftist or anarchist pages and websites I could reach of. I published the news piece on Irish Indymedia and WSM Internal, It is going to be printed in the July issue of the WSM paper as well, I will make the corrections and addition of links on that article as well. I will also post it up to British and American Indymedias today and put the links here. Please do not hesitate to contact me for urgent translations up to 500 words and not-so-urgent ones up to 5000 words with some advance notice for the website you are working on, I will also be happy to translate texts for the comrades on strike and union and council websites.
"but attributing it solely to our side will just create illusions about our strength." I am not too clear about what you mean by "us", us the anarchists, us the workers? If you mean orginized actions of the shipyard workers and union representatives would not have gotton coverage and suport if it was not for the power strugle between AKP and the liberal Ataturk fan media and the Generals, I will not agree with you. The very fact that the state attacked the workers and union officials both on site and May Day and the subsequent media coverage is a manifestation of a synical threat to the workers; "This is what you get if you rise up". An outsider's read on your comment send a misplaced message as if the mainstream media is friendly to this strike and critical of the state's actions on MayDay. Even the "dissenting" voices in liberal left media exist to serve a lie for the Turkish State that there is freedom of expression in Turkey in my opinion.
"use violence in a modern way i.e. categorization of the population, physical and discursive isolation of dissident groups, selective use of violence etc. combined with the "II. post-modern coup" or the "I. e-coup" at the end of april the violence at may day became a big issue for the mainstream media." Would you like to eloborate on that? What is this "modern use of violance", is it an alternative to just state violalence, do we prefer that specific groups are targeted and isolated for specific violent action or something? It is state's show down comrade, showing the stick from under the cloak to everyone, I dont think it discriminates in action or it ever will.

author by enderpublication date Tue Jun 10, 2008 03:53Report this post to the editors

I'll inform you if we need any help.

by "us" I meant the labor front in general.

about the mainstream media: i think they were quite critical esp. last year, but the effects of AKP-led repression on May Day 2007 was far more broader in extent and harsher than this year. of course they are not supportive to the strike.

i didnt use "modern" in a favorable sense. last year was crazy and we could really say that the state did not discriminate between participants and non-participants. to stop a may day at taksim the police stopped the whole city. but as far as I have experienced this year they learnt their lesson very well. of course they were atrocities, but compared to last year the police could isolate the active leftists.

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