At least 1,736 people were killed at the workplace in Turkey during 2019, according to Health and Safety Labour Watch (ISIG), a non-governmental worker rights organization.
Among those killed were 67 child laborers and 112 migrant workers.
Police detained six members of ISIG in Ankara, where they had gathered to announce “2019 Turkey Workplace Murders”, Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Sunday.
Police used force to prevent the ISIG group from reading the report in front of Ankara’s Madenci Aniti (Miner Monument) on the grounds that the gathering was staged without the consent of the Ankara Governorship and detained the six, Pinar Abdal, Ozgur Bozkurt, Furkan Bircan, Osman Cokaman, Kansu Yildirim, and Zarife Camalan.
The detainees reportedly read the ISIG statement in the police vehicle.
Following the release of the six after the police questioning, the ISIG report was revealed in the premises of the Health and Social Service Workers’ Union (SES).
With these figures, Turkey ranks first in Europe and third in the world in workplace deaths.
The fatal work accidents occurred mostly in the agricultural, construction, and transportation sectors, with 25, 19, and 14 percent, respectively.
The ISIG defines the deaths in workplace accidents as murder, as it sees them as avoidable.
The ISIG report claimed that the workers are subjected to excessive workloads and work hours, in addition to unregistered and unsafe working conditions.
“Workplace murders are political [issues]. We believe that all those killings are because of not taking measures, not carrying out inspections, the ambition of the capitalists to make money, and the state policies,” the ISIG statement read.
The moves by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), such as “zero accident declaration” and “the year of struggling with child worker,” were just shows, it claimed.
The AKP government has, in recent times, been criticized over its poor policies toward workplace safety and its failure to prevent occupational accidents.
Nearly 1.7 million workers have been involved in workplace accidents between 2003 and 2017 in Turkey, while almost 17,000 have died over the same period, according to a 2018 report by Gamze Akkus Ilgezdi, deputy chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Turkey’s worst-ever work accident is a mine disaster that occurred on May 13, 2014, in the western district of Soma, taking the lives of 301 coal miners.
Can Gurkan, the chief executive of the Soma Coal Company, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of reckless homicide, ruling to continue his detention in the appeal process.
However, a Turkish court in October last year ordered the release of the CEO with a travel ban, also lifting the ruling, which barred him from working in mines for three years.
“Our struggle will go on against those who call [the accidents] ‘fate’ and ‘nature’ in an attempt to whitewash them,” the ISIG said, referring to the remarks by the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Following the disaster, Erdogan said accidents were the nature of mining.
“Let’s not interpret the incident as one that will not happen in coal mines. These things happen,” Erdogan at the time.