No more work until we’re paid

December 7, 2017 received this report via social media of a labor struggle in Istanbul.

APPROXIMATELY 300 workers at a construction site in Istanbul run by the company Garanti Koza have stopped working because they haven't received their salaries for months.

There are around 1,000 workers at the Koza Park site building luxury residences. When some workers left their jobs demanding payment of back wages, management cut off salaries to at least as many others. Following this, more workers, including elevator workers among them, went on strike.

Besides the unpaid salaries, conditions for the workers are bad. In particular, a bedbug infestation where workers are housed and problems related to the quality of food make working and living at the construction site impossible.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, when he addressed international investors in July, admitted that martial law was used so that business could operate under more favorable conditions. "When we came to the power in Turkey," he said, referring to the election of his Justice and Development Party government close to two decades ago, "there was martial law, but the factories were threatened by strikes. Remember those days! Now, however, wherever a treat of a strike shows up, we, by using martial law, stop them."

The Koza Park construction site in Istanbul
The Koza Park construction site in Istanbul

This approach, in which workers are targeted for every struggle to establish their rights, reveals the true character of the relationship between employees and employers in Turkey.

In this speech, Erdoğan showed the stick to workers--and the carrot to those capitalists who aren't as positive about the path that the country has taken since when Erdoğan once claimed that "those who take the national resources out of the country are traitors." Now his message is different: "Turkey is a country with free market, and whoever wants to can take their capital out of the country--I have no demands to restrict the movement of capital." It can be understood that the permission for the capitalists to take their capital out of Turkey is given.

As for the workers for Garanti Koza on the Koza Park project who are striking because they haven't received their salaries from subcontractors, they have this message to send: "We will not watch the bosses enjoying their lives with barbeque parties on top floors of their residences while we are suffer in cell blocks with bedbugs all over them. They have moved into the beautiful houses and sent their children to luxurious facilities, while we could not even bring our children a loaf of bread. We have not received our salaries for months. Until our rights are recognized and until our working conditions become humane, we will make ourselves heard."

THE UNJUST treatment isn't limited to those who work, but also those who moved into unfinished houses. One new Koza Park owner described the problems: "They have not delivered the houses on time, and there are many technical shortcomings in the apartments where we live. I have had many problems with the façade of the building, and water leaks through the windows. I regret buying this apartment."

Both workers and buyers have been victimized. Currently, the construction project has ground to a halt. But even though there are financial shortages, the management of the site is saying that everything will shortly be normal once again. But the company is already turning its face abroad.

According to one report, at an international real estate fair in Dubai in September, Garanti Koza advertised its investments in both Turkey and Bulgaria. Ahmet Murat Binark, the deputy chairman of Garanti Koza, claimed that 70 percent of the mixed projects to be finished in 2019 are sold at a strong unit price.

At the same symposium, Mehmet Şükrü İlkel, chairman of the board of Garanti Koza, said that he was satisfied with the attention the company got at the fair, and bragged that "we made hot sales. Here is exactly what we were looking for, because the customers themselves are coming to us."

These statements show us that there are no financial problems for this company. There are rumors that the company will start a new project in Greece, and investments will be concentrated in this region. The burdens of the workers, the apartment owners waiting for their homes to be delivered or repaired--these don't bother the company at all.

The workers say that until they receive their salaries and until working conditions improve, they will continue to strike.

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