Turkish workers say no precautions taken against COVID-19

Workers in several Turkish factories have said that adequate precautions have not been taken to protect them against the spread of the coronavirus, said news site Sol.  

Workers at the Motorfan Electric Factory, in Istanbul’s Arnavutköy district, said social distancing could not be maintained as company buses and the factory cafeteria remained overcrowded, with 300 people working at the factory. 

Staff members with a high temperature are sent home, but production is not halted, said Sol, citing information provided to a workers’ solidarity network. 

Workers at the factory said they would be required to go on annual leave from April 1 – those without remaining annual leave will have to take unpaid leave. 

Workers at Amana Foods in Kocaeli said they had not been provided with a sufficient number of gloves and that adequate masks had not been distributed. While the temperatures of workers were taken, the company shuttle buses remained crowded, said Sol.

The government has shut down schools and universities, brought in tight restrictions on travel, and imposed a ban on leaving home for the over-65s. Yet President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not imposed a full nationwide lockdown, instead urging people to stay at home in a voluntary quarantine.

Work continues at some factories and construction sites, and more than 1.2 million people a day were still using public transport in Istanbul last week, according to municipality statistics.

About 19,000 companies have already applied on behalf of 420,000 employees for a salary support programme established as part of a $15-billion package of economic aid announced in March, the Financial Times said on Tuesday. 

But the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), Turkey’s largest industrial group, wants the government to go further, as many workers are ineligible for support because they are not part of the formal workforce.

Last week the Turkish Medical Association called on the government to provide workers with paid leave in order to prevent millions going to work during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Arzu Çerkezoğlu, the head of the Revolutionary Trade Unions Confederation (DISK), told DW Turkish last week that, while the government had called on people to stay at home, it was also allowing workplaces, factories, and construction sites to remain open. 

“Workers have to go out and take all kinds of risks in order not to lose their jobs and income,” she said.