Aziz Celik of Kristal-Is, the trade union for workers in the glass, cement, ceramics and soil sectors, spoke to bianet about the explosion at an illegal fireworks factory in Davutpasa, Istanbul, which has led to 23 deaths:
“You cannot reduce the issue to a technical management problem. There is unwillingness to inspect these kind of irregular and illegal workplaces out of fear of affecting the market negatively. They do not want to frighten these kind of places off.”
Gross negligence in three institutions
Celik apportioned blame to the municipality because it hands out licenses for workplace, to the Ministry of Employment and Social Security because it is responsible for ensuring that working conditions are healthy and safe, and to the Social Security Institution (SSK) because it has to follow up whether workers are insured or not.
“This is not a legal but a political issue. We only found out about this illegal workpalce because it exploded. There are many such illegal workplaces which could explode just like that any minute, or events where not dozens but one or two people died.”
600 inspectors for 750,000 workplaces
Celik pointed out that the Ministry of Employment was an institution which monitored whether people worked in healthy and safe conditions, but that there were serious deficiencies in the application of standards:
“In Turkey, standards for workers’ health and safety are quite high on paper. However, the Ministry has to monitor 750,000 workplaces and has only 600 members of staff to carry out that duty. With that number it is impossible to monitor.”
According to Celik, the Ministry was more concerned with abolishing severance pay and other rules protecting workers:
“There are special regulations protecting the health and safety of people working in different sectors. There are extensive regulations for explosive and poisonous matters, but there is no one inspecting the application of the rules.”
Disk challenges Ministry of Employment
The Turkish Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Trade Unions (DISK) has issued a statement in which it asked the Ministry of Employment:
- When was the last inspection of the area where the explosion took place
- When were the work health and safety conditions of workers in the area last investigated?
- How many of those dead or injured were insured, and how many were not?
The Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) also made a statement on Friday (2 February) condemning the lack of inspection of workplaces. (NZ/TK/AG)