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Turkey’s opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) warned today that workers are being sacrificed to pay the bill of the country’s deepening economic crisis after mass arrests at an Istanbul airport project.
HDP deputy Ayhan Bilgen was speaking at a press conference in the Grand Assembly when he slammed bosses at the airport construction site as unscrupulous for branding the rightful demands of the workers “sabotage.”
Bosses called the authorities as thousands walked off the job on Friday and the workers were met with water cannon and tear gas.
On Saturday, 543 were arrested after a list of union members involved in the action was handed to Turkish gendarmes by airport bosses, who branded the strikers “terrorists.”
Workers reported a scab army was being brought on to the site to replace those who were detained and deter others from joining the strike.
According to the transport ministry, 27 workers have been killed at the construction site since work began in 2015 — 13 of them in workplace accidents.
However a report from the Cumhuriyet newspaper earlier this year claimed the government was covering up as many as 400 deaths at the site.
Workers told the newspaper that the deaths were unreported as the government was paying the victims’ families as much as $100,000 in hush money.
Union officials claim the death toll at the flagship airport site, which is due to be completed on October 29, could be as high as four per week due to workplace accidents.
More than 30 people who were detained at a solidarity protest in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district were released after appearing in court yesterday where they were charged with defying a government ban on meetings and demonstrations.
Mr Bilgen demanded the immediate release of those still being held and said that their justified demands — including measures against workplace killings and basic rights — should be met.
He said the claims of two deaths per week at the site “were not normal” and the demands of the workers should be viewed as “criminal complaints.”
“Workers should not pay the bill of the country’s economic crisis,” Mr Bilgen said as he warned that Turkey is in danger of entering a period of “stagflation” — high inflation and slow economic growth.
Turkey’s economy is thought to be on the brink of a crash with the lira losing 40 per cent of its value since the beginning of the year.
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