Turkish workers protest virus exposure at pro-Erdoğan company

Turks working at Cengiz İnşaat, a construction company with close relations to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, began a protest claiming that working conditions were exposing them to the COVID-19 virus.

The employees, who were building a highway near the southeastern city of Mardin, stopped working to protest, saying were being asked to do more hours at an increased tempo without adequate protection, business news website Patronlar Dünyası reported on Wednesday.

The group has ended up in a standoff with members of the local gendarmerie, who were sent to the site, Patronlar Dunyasi said. The workers said social distancing measures had not been implemented in working areas, cafeterias and on service buses, it reported.

Mahmut Tanal, a parliamentarian for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and a lawyer, said some of the workers were then laid off.

Cengiz İnşaat operates under industrial group Cengiz Holding. It is owned by businessman Mehmet Cengiz. He has won a series of large construction contracts from the government, including to build Istanbul’s new airport, which is set to become the world’s largest when all construction phases are completed.