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Turkish unions urged to strike against government Covid-19 package

TURKISH trade unions have been urged to “organise the struggle” and co-ordinate strike action for the right to life in response to government plans to continue production throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Figen Yuksekdag’s Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) warned that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had been calculating to save big business “since day one.”

“Production will continue at the cost of workers lives,” a statement from the party’s executive said yesterday.

The government moved to ban all lay-offs of workers for three months with as many as 15,000 construction workers having lost their jobs in Istanbul as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those dismissed after March 15 are being offered a paltry support package of just 40 Turkish Lira (£4.70) a day for those not entitled to unemployment benefit.

The policy will also see workers sent on unpaid leave being paid 1,177 liras a month (£133), less than a quarter of the amount they would receive under the government’s short-term employment allowance program.

The crisis has exposed the weakness of the Turkish economy, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issuing urgent appeals for cash via text message and making donations to an emergency fund compulsory for public-sector workers.

Many workplaces will remain open as Mr Erdogan prioritises keeping the economy running over the lives of workers.

In a chilling speech earlier this week the tyrannical ruler said that Turkey would “reap the benefits” of coronavirus and become a powerhouse in the new world order.

Turkey has reported 42,282 cases of the coronavirus and 908 deaths, but is predicted to be more affected than Italy, Spain and Iran.

Despite this, Revolutionary Workers Unions Confederation (Disk) president Arzu Cerkezoglu warned that “millions of workers are still forced to go to work.

“Millions of workers use public transport. They work side by side with other workers in their workplaces, eat in canteens. Then they go home to their families.”

The only solution, Ms Cerkezoglu insisted, was for people to stay at home.

But the ESP said that Disk must remember the reasons for its existence, saying “the strike weapon is more vital than ever.”

It said that the union federation had in effect left workers unprotected against the pandemic and capital by calling for people to use paid annual leave on health and safety grounds.

By approving the government measures, workers would go hungry as they are forced to take unpaid leave with the government stipend not enough to meet basic needs.

ESP said organising strikes for the right to paid leave “has never been so burning in history.”

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