Last Monday, about 200 Syrian and Turkish workers in the industrial city of Kosgate in Gaziantep began a strike demanding increased wages following the Turkish government’s decision to increase the minimum wage by 50 percent last month.
According to the workers, factory owners refused to increase their salaries unless it was accompanied by a 10 percent increase in working hours, which the workers refused.
The workers were joined by members and administrators of the Labor Party (Emek Partisi), the President and members of the Gaziantep Trade Union (BİRTEK-SEN), the directors of the Lawyers for Freedom Association (ÖHD) and lawyers from the Gaziantep Bar Association.
In an interview with the Turkish newspaper Evrensel, the director of the Workers’ Party branch in Gaziantep, Majid Bozkurt, stated that the party stands with the workers who demand their rights. “The workers’ demands are not demands that cannot be met. But, as in all other areas, workers suffer because employers do not grant them their rights,” he said. “The demands are very reasonable — the workers just want a decent wage.”
Bozkurt added that the workers are determined to see their demands met. And they do not accept attempts by employers to create divisions between Turkish and Syrian workers.
Lawyers for Freedom and the Human Rights Centre of the Gaziantep Bar Association prepared a joint report on the strike. According to the report, the factory owners formed a group among themselves. They agreed that — if any of the workers were dismissed or resigned — the employers would share the employee’s information so that the former employee would not get a job opportunity in another factory.
The report added: “The employers wanted to put forward agreement terms that satisfy the Turkish workers at the expense of their Syrian colleagues. But the Turkish workers did not accept this offer, saying there should be no discrimination between Syrian workers and Turkish workers. They added that they will not allow the factory owners to divide them.”
Most Syrians work without insurance and earn lower wages than their Turkish counterparts. One of the striking Syrian workers, Ayman, told Evrensel that “there is no difference between Syrian and Turkish workers — everyone is affected.”
Ayman explained that factory owners do not care when workers are injured in the workplace. “They take advantage of the power imbalance and exploit us. They force us to work long shifts, and they give us only half our rights.”
“Factory owners say that they can’t afford to increase our salaries. They are oppressing us, using us like slaves. They play with our basic living conditions; they play with our lives. I was electrocuted [while working], and they cut my daily salary because of it.”
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.