Turkey: Mine tragedy leads to national protests

Turkey mourners

The deaths of 301 miners in a western Turkey lignite mine has prompted widespread protests and industrial action. Trade unions launched a one-day strike on 15 May in protest of the country’s poor mining safety record. Anger at the tragedy was fuelled by dismissive and insensitive statements from the government and the company. Prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan, visiting the town of Soma where the deadly underground explosion and fire occurred, said: “These types of accidents are regular occurrences… there are no such things as having no accidents,” citing 19th century mine disasters in Britain and others elsewhere. Protests involving thousands in major cities – some met by police with tear gas and water cannons – featured banners proclaiming: “This is not an accident, it’s a massacre.” Soma Coal Mining Co, the operator of the privatised mine, admitted there were no functioning refuge chambers in working parts of the mine. “This is not the first disaster we’ve experienced. In the past few years, we’ve seen hundreds of incidents, and we’ve lost thousands of workers,” the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TÜRK-İŞ) general secretary Pevrul Kavlak said in a statement. “This disaster should be a lesson for those who have turned this country into a heaven for subcontractors and for those who have created an order based on exploitation.” Turkey has the third highest rate of deaths at work for miners in the world. Some 13,000 miners were involved in accidents in 2013 and 1,308 miners have been killed at work since 2000. Privatisation, a central policy plank of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) restructuring strategy, has seen the use of a tender process unions believe has encouraged profit-driven cost cuts and increased production targets. At the same time official oversight of safety standards has been reduced. A number of arrests have been made in relation to the Soma mine deaths.
Equal Times •  BWI news release • ETUC statement • In These Times •  CS Monitor •  CNN • The Independent • BBC News Online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *