Sep 16 2018

New workers brought to Istanbul airport site, company says protestors are terrorists

Workers at the construction site of İstanbul’s third airport went on strike on Sept. 14 due to poor working conditions and lack of work security that have allegedly caused hundreds of deaths.

The same night, Turkish police and gendarmes launched an operation in the construction site and detained 543 people, including workers and trade union representatives, who commenced the strike.

In the morning, the gendarmerie, police and water cannon vehicles surrounded the construction site area. Except for those detained, identity check was carried out to find additional workers who were detected to participate in the strike by police. Deputies and the media were not allowed to enter the construction site.

It wasn't only the security forces who afresh came. Following the strike, many workers from various cities arrived at the site to replace the detained ones. Workers were sent to health check after delivering their identification numbers to the officers.

Workers told Ahval that they were brought posthaste to Istanbul. A worker from the northeastern city of Rize said the subcontractor company called him said on Sept. 14 in the evening.

I was looking for a job. In the evening of the previous day, the subcontractor firm called and immediately told me to come to Istanbul and start working. When I came here, I saw over 200 new workers like me.

When Ahval asked about the strike, he noted, "I do not care, ask the ones who protest."

Another worker coming from the northern city of Samsun hesitantly admitted that he knew about the protests.

The subcontractor firm called me last night. I got ready and came here immediately. They told me that the protestors were provocateurs, traitors and terrorists. The person on the phone told me that people like me deserve to work at the airport construction and make a living. I heard about the strike, but I do not know the reason. I've been unemployed for eight months. I just came here to work. There are problems at every worksite.

When Ahval asked the worker whether he heard that the standard working conditions could not be provided, the salaries were paid late, and the workers were forced to sleep with the bedbugs, "there are problems, of course. But I just want to work," he answered.

The problems do not interest me. I have two kids, and I've been jobless for months. I can not find excuses. My wife and children are waiting for money. I just came to work. I work, and I keep my silence. The rest does not concern me. I have no interest in the union. That's what I'm telling you. That's what I said to the company. 

A worker who did not join the protestors said that he was afraid to speak. He said the number of detentions would increase.

There were at least two thousand people. Police are still trying to detect all of them from the footage. Police and company have been pressuring workers to tell who was involved. Some of our friends were offered a premium, job guarantee and extra money. It is said that all of the protestors will be fired.

An engineer who was previously working at the construction site also spoke to Ahval. Nowadays, he works for another construction company in Istanbul. The 38-year-old engineer said he worked at the airport construction for one year and left because of poor working conditions. He said such protests were already expected.

It's an isolated place in Istanbul. Imagine, there are 36 thousand workers. I was not surprised when I heard about the events. I saw with my own eyes that two workers lost their lives when I was working there. There was constant pressure. Workers and engineers worked in horrible conditions.

The Union of Construction Workers and the Union of Revolutionary Construction Workers organised a public statement in İstanbul and Ankara to condemn the working conditions at the construction site and detention of workers. In the press release, it was requested that the detained workers be released, returned to their jobs and fulfilled their 15-item requests.

The police interrupted the public statements. Numerous people including union leaders and journalists were detained.