UNI Global Union’s General Secretary, Christy Hoffman has written to the head of the Istanbul Grand Airport (IGA) construction & operating company, calling the number of fatalities amongst workers on the giant project ‘outrageous’.
At least 37 workers are confirmed dead but international media have spoken to members of the workforce who say that the death toll may be as high as 400 over the four years the airport has been under construction.
Conditions at the airport have been described as modern day slavery. When workers dared to protest the military turned water cannon on them and 600 were dragged away and arrested, whilst the gates were locked to keep trade union leaders from coming in.
Ozgur Karabulut, the president of the Progressive Union of Construction Workers was reportedly detained and 27 trade union leaders were imprisoned, currently awaiting trial. It’s believed that hundreds of workers were fired just for reporting the terrible work conditions.
Hoffman said that IGA, as the main contractor had to take responsibility, “The working conditions and labour relations at the site are unacceptable and amount to contemporary slavery. The repression of protests and the arrest of trade unionists constitute serious violations of the fundamental right to freedom of association. In addition, the project violates a range of international labour standards related to working time, occupational health and safety.”
Hoffman demanded that IGA withdrew all criminal and civil complaints against the workers, reinstated fired workers and ensured a safe workplace. She added that workers should not be penalised for refusing unsafe work and the IGA should negotiate in good faith with the unions.