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Turkish unions and MPs launch platform demanding protection for workers from Covid-19

TRADE unions, parliamentarians and political parties in Turkey launched a Health for All Workers campaign today demanding action from the government to protect workers from the Covid-19 outbreak.

Unions representing workers in the health service, hotel industry and factories were joined by Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs Murat Cepni and Ferhat Tunc to warn of the risk to the lives of workers who are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis.

“None of the [government] measures protect workers,” a statement said. “It is almost as if we are told to work until death.”

Starting from Thursday, the campaigners are calling on the public to switch off their lights at 8pm for 20 minutes to highlight their demands, which include an end to lay-offs, for all utility bills to be suspended, the provision of protective equipment and nationalisation of health services.

“We are voicing our demands, which have now become urgent,” the platform signatories said.

The launch comes after at least 200 workers with less than six months’ service at the Farplas Automotive plant in Gebze were sacked last week, the company citing a loss of production due to Covid-19.

Staff at the Elysium Hotel in Istanbul were forced to sign an agreement to take unpaid leave because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Hotel & Tourism Workers Union (Otis) said.

Trade unions have warned the government that workers are unable to follow its advice to “stay at home” unless action is taken to ensure they are paid and that their bills and rent are covered.

Transport union Tutmis urged the government to draw on the 130 million Turkish lira set aside in the unemployment fund. 

Unions have demanded that all non-essential workplaces shut; shipyard union Limter-Is general secretary Hakki Demiral was fined last week after calling for non-essential workers to stay at home.

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