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24 union members jailed in Turkey after strike at Istanbul airport

TURKISH construction union Insaat-Is said union leaders were among 24 jailed today following mass arrests as strike action swept across a flagship airport project in Istanbul.

The workers, including trade union leaders, were among more than 500 detained by Turkish security services this weekend after bosses provided a list of names of those who took part in the action.

They were placed under pre-trial arrest and charged with damaging public property, attending a demonstration with weapons and violating the right to work.

Nineteen others were released by the court, but they had a travel ban imposed to prevent them from leaving the country.

Speaking at a press conference with the families of those arrested, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP for Izmir Serpil Kemalbay demanded the release of those held.

“Here the state and companies are the employers. This operation is also the operation of silencing workers. We want the workers to be released immediately,” she said.

And Istanbul’s HDP MP Erkan Bas called for the government and the company’s management to face charges in court.

“The state is responsible for the site and all the bosses should be investigated and tried,” he said.

Construction workers walked off the site which has been described as a “graveyard” in protest at poor conditions and a series of workplaces deaths as bosses rush to complete Istanbul’s new airport by October 29.

The Ministry of Labour said in April that there had been 27 deaths at the Istanbul New Airport project since work began in 2015, with 13 due to workplace accidents.

However a damning report from the Cumhuriyet newspaper, which has since been taken over by the government, claimed a state cover-up of more than 400 deaths on the site.

Workers on the site insisted that the families of those killed were paid as much as $100,000 each to remain silent as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s showpiece scheme nears completion.

The airport development has been branded a vanity project for the country’s authoritarian leader, who has presided over an expansion of bridges and roads in Turkey.

However, investment has stalled as the country moves towards a major recession, with the value of the lira falling by 40 per cent since the beginning of the year.

An estimated 2,000 workers took part in the strike action which erupted on Friday after bosses failed to take action on a list of 15 demands, including improved safety, food and housing.

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