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Strike action continues in Istanbul as union representatives and workers arrested

STRIKE action is continuing at a major Istanbul airport project despite the arrest of more than 500 construction workers by Turkish armed security forces yesterday.

The arrests were made when armed gendarmes stormed dormitories on the mega-construction site. They kicked down doors and detained union representatives and workers who were on a list given to them by bosses yesterday morning.

But about 2,000 construction workers remained defiant, continuing their action at the airport construction site over poor working conditions.

The strike started on Friday after the Construction union failed to reach agreement with airport bosses over a list of demands raised by the workers.

The workers complain that they have to live in dirty conditions in dormitories riddled with bedbugs and fleas.

Last week two workers fell from a roof where they were working. They had not been provided with adequate safety equipment.

And the most recent incident had involved the injury of 17 workers in an accident as the bus they were travelling in crashed in wet conditions.

At least two people have been killed and many more injured in safety incidents.

But bosses failed to take action and on Friday called in the security forces, with officers tear-gassing thousands of strikers.

The new Istanbul airport is a showpiece for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government with pressure for its completion by the end of October.

Many of the workers are subcontractors who have not been paid for up to six months after their companies went bust due to Turkey’s severe economic crisis — the value of the lira has dropped by 40 per cent this year.

The United Worker’s Convention warned: “We are workers, not slaves, we are the owners of tomorrow,” in a statement following the arrests.

It called for “acts of solidarity with the airport workers,” urging supporters to organise actions in their workplace and go to the airport construction site.

“Yesterday, our work colleagues working at the third airport went on strike because they wanted to live a human and honourable life, not to die while working,” the statement said.

“Our power comes from our unity,” the union said. “If we do not accept slavery … If we do not want to go back to work today, we should not be silent … We need to organise.”

The union demanded the acceptance of the workers’ demands and the release of all of those detained by Turkish authorities.

“We want a life that is human and honourable,” the statement concluded.

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