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Turkish workers strike over Soma mine disaster

Government privatisation and indifference blamed as death toll rises to 282

WORKERS across Turkey went on strike today in protest at the government neglect and privatisation which led to the ongoing Soma mine disaster.

Rescue teams recovered eight more victims yesterday, bringing the death toll to 282.

Although 363 miners had been rescued, another 150 were not accounted for.

No miner has been brought out alive since early on Wednesday.

Fury at the scale of the disaster had been heightened by a speech on Wednesday by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he remarked that mining accidents were “ordinary things” that also occurred in many other countries, after giving examples of 19th-century mine accidents in Britain.

He added that mining was a dangerous occupation and miners knew that when they started in the industry.

Protests broke out on Wednesday in Istanbul, Ankara and Ismir over the deaths and poor safety conditions at mines around the country.

They continued yesterday and Turkey’s largest trade union confederation Turk-Is, representing some 800,000 workers, joined a one-day strike by a broad range of unions.

“Those who keep up with privatisation policies, who threaten workers’ lives to reduce costs are the culprits of the Soma massacre and they must be held accountable,” said the Public Workers Unions Confederation, which represents 240,000 employees.

Union officials said that the recent privatisation of the mining sector had made working conditions immeasurably more dangerous.

Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey chief Arzu Cerkezoglu told journalists that several major unions were backing the strike.

He had called on citizens on Wednesday to wear black and march on the Ministry of Labour in Ankara.

And in response to the call, thousands assembled in the capital yesterday, with protests also held in Istanbul, Ismir, Bursa, Antalya and other cities.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon on 20,000 people who took to the streets in Izmir, just 75 miles from Soma, on Wednesday.

But, in Soma, grief-stricken families at dozens of funerals started the long process of burying the victims of an uncaring government.

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