Dear readers, in two serial articles we will try to present to you the struggles of the miners from the towns of Ermenek, southern Turkey, and Soma, western Turkey. Workers in the two towns, known as Turkey’s coal mining centers, have been fighting for months for their unpaid wages and compensations. We believe that their problems are not alien not only to their fellow miners in the rest of the world but also to all the workers who face the exploitation of the capitalists every day.
On October 12, miners from the town of Ermenek, southern Turkey, and their colleagues from the town of Soma, in the western part of the country, began a march on the capital of Ankara. Ermenek and Soma became infamous in 2014 after more than 300 miners were killed in two separate accidents at coal mines /workers massacres/. The survivors of these accidents/massacres/ continue to work in this dangerous profession, and their situation has not changed much in the past 6 years. For weeks now, the path of the protesting miners has been blocked by the gendarmerie and police. Their struggle to reach the capital is still ongoing.
Although the salaries of some of the miners from the town of Ermenek were paid at the end of October, they continue to protest and fight for their labor and social rights, saying they will continue to fight until their demands are accepted.
Şadiye Çoksöyler the wife of Osman Çoksöyler, one of 18 miners killed in an accident at one of the coal mines in the town of Ermenek on October 26, 2014, said the owner of the concessionaire of the mine in which her husband died was released after was only 5 years in prison, adding: “We do not want alms, but what rightfully belongs to us. My child, who was 3 months old when her father died, asked me, “Where’s Daddy?”
On October 23, at 11:00 (local time), miners from the town of Ermenek gathered in a square in the town of Güneyurt, Karaman province, southern Turkey. Locals, as well as people from nearby villages and towns, had also come to support the miners. The President of the Independent Trade Union of Miners (Bağımsız Maden-İş), Tahir Cetin, delivered a speech on behalf of the workers. He said that false news had been spread on social networks the night before the meeting, that the salaries of all miners had been paid, but he stressed that only 15 workers had received their salaries in their bank accounts.
Çetin also said that the full salaries of these 15 miners had not been paid, but only part of the sums. He continued his speech as follows:
“54 days ago, when we started our protest in the mine, we said, ‘Enough is enough!’ And we opposed this injustice. We met with all possible institutions to pay the salaries we have not received for more than 1 year, for the compensations, for the amounts deducted from our salaries by private pension funds, as well as to take the necessary measures for safety at work in the mines. We have taken all our actions while remaining open to dialogue, to solve our problems, and to make our just demands accepted. We explained what we want to the representatives of the central government in our province, to the Ministry of Energy, to the General Directorate of Coal Mines in Turkey, to the chairpersons of the parliamentary groups of all political parties.
As a result of our struggle, for our just demands, the salaries of our friends working in the central mine, at Cenne 1, were paid yesterday. But still, more than 50 of our colleagues working for Turap Ltd. and Ozkar Ltd. have not received their salaries for the last 4-5 months. However, our friends who received their salaries have not yet been paid the amounts deducted from their salaries, by the private pension funds, the compensations for unused paid annual leave and overtime, etc., they have not received all the amounts due.
Those who say that the workers have received their salaries are lying. During the pandemic, when dismissals were banned, 31 of our colleagues were fired without the right to compensation because they sought their rights and could not take a penny of unemployment compensation. Those who say the problems have been solved are lying. ”
The demands of the miners are the following:
-To be paid the salaries of our colleagues who have not received their salaries;
-The compensations for unused leave and overtime work must be paid;
-The necessary safe working conditions in the mines must be observed and ensured by the employers;
-Miners who have been fired from their jobs must be returned to their job places.
Wife of a miner: They all turned their backs on us!
“I lost my husband when I was 28 years old. We were told to go to court. We filed lawsuits in court. Where is the justice in Turkey? I was left alone with my two little children. Then one was a 3-month-old baby and the other was 5 years old. I have two daughters whose future I have to take care of. The Supreme Court of Cassation sentenced him to 19 years. But after 5 years, do you know where Saffet Uyar is (the owner of the concessionaire company that operated the mine in Ermenek, in which the 18 miners were killed), he is at home, having fun in a warm and cozy place. Where is Abdullah Özbey (owner of the mine concession license), having fun at home in Ermenek.
Where is Yavuz Özsoy (a mining engineer in the same mine), he walks freely, and is allegedly wanted. Then the authorities told us, “We stand behind you, we will take care of all your needs.” But then they forgot about us, they don’t even remember who we are. Sentences of a total of 13 years were given at first instance, the Supreme Court of Cassation of Turkey later increased the size of the sentences to a total of 19 years. We do not want alms, but what rightfully belongs to us. My husband was 29 years old. They all turned their backs to us. Everyone looks at us as if we are rich from all this. Come home and see how we live. My child, who was 3 months old when his father died, asked me, “Where’s my Daddy?” Forgive my expression, but our life is not worth as much as the life of a dog.
The price of 18 human lives cannot be 5 years in prison. If there are no laws here, look outside. Where will we find these laws? We are stuck in a position as if we were in the Middle Ages. We are simple peasants for them, they will tell us, look for the law here, look for it there. They know that we will not be able to do what is necessary. That’s enough. For the future of our children, we want to be paid the compensations we deserve. ”
Miners from Ermenek and Soma, who want to march on the capital city Ankara, have decided to suspend their protests after meeting with the chairwoman of the AKP’s ruling parliamentary group, Ozlem Zengin, in October.
To date, miners continue to expect their demands to be accepted, giving a new deadline for power, which expires on January 15, 2021. If by then their demands listed above are not met, they will again head to the capital city Ankara.