On May 13, upon receiving the initial death tolls of the massacre, we immediately took off to Soma as the HDP mission to Soma comprised of Şırnak MP Selma Irmak, Istanbul MP Levent Tüzel and the chairman of EMEK Party Selma Gürkan. We initially paid a visit to the local state hospital to get a briefing from the chief medical superintendent and first-hand accounts from those who were injured and their families. We proceeded to the mine site where the search and rescue operation was taking place and visited the rescue operation coordination center and talked to the mineworkers on site. We would like to share our observations and accounts with the public.
The death toll that has reached 300s as of now, but is projected increase, has led to a nationwide grief, mourning and anger among our peoples. We offer our condolences to the mourning families of Soma mineworkers, our peoples in nationwide mourning and the working class. We hope that the nationwide mourning, mass strike and the protests across Turkey will be considered as an important warning by the government and the private sector so that the privatization and subcontracting practices will come to an end.
As we always remind the public, these are not accidents but murders. Accidents are not predictable occurrences. However, the recent worker deaths were very much predictable and this time, these systematic murders have turned into a massacre. The Prime Minister insists on his remarks that “these accidents are ordinary ones”. The statement, “such deaths are natural consequences of this job”, is an attempt to both avoid his government’s liability in the massacre and to acquit the exploitative practices of the company. The government might not have the courage to face the public but they have to take the blame. We will make sure that the government is hold accountable for their responsibility with regard to this massacre.
The situation at hand resembles the previous “accidents”. The massacre is a result of the failure of the exploitative profit-driven private sector and its partners in the government to take the necessary precautions to secure the lives of the workers. All the scientific data at hand show that these “accidents” were not the work of fate but were all preventable indeed. The mining site that has been operated by Soma Mining for ten years now and employs seven thousand workers is not equipped necessary measures to secure the health conditions and lives of the mineworkers here. The media has clearly portrayed these conditions as well. There is no need to look for further evidence beyond the oxygen masks which were last replaced three years ago and were in rotting condition as the investigations failed to notice.
The credibility of the announcements that claimed that the cause of the mineworkers’ death was a fire that started in a power distribution center are discussed by the public. The first-hand and other mineworkers’ accounts of the tragedy suggest otherwise. The unions have declared according to their primary evaluations that the cause of the deaths appears to be the inner combustion of the coal that lead to a fire from which the smoke spread across the mine through the ventilation unites. No matter what the actual cause is, the conclusion here is that the massacre is the result of a preventable incident only if the precautions against were taken. The Ministry and the authorities fail to respond to these claims. A thorough investigation should reveal the true cause of the massacre.
The links tying the AKP government and the company are obvious ones: the wife of the company’s CEO is an AKP congress member, the CEO and the union leaders are very close, two of the union leaders were nominated by the company itself, the remarks of the union leader stating that the company was at no fault regarding the massacre and that three years ago the municipality had announced that those who wish to apply for a job at the mine should apply through the AKP local branch in this town are just some examples that showcase ties between the union, the AKP government and Soma Mining. The union here has been criticized for not voicing the workers’ issues and cooperating with the company instead. The union officials fail to respond to questions directed at them.
The Energy Minister himself declared that this enterprise is one that fulfills European standards. However, the disaster that occurred here illustrates the outdated working conditions at this site. The Minister claims that the government supports the private sector initiatives in the coal-mining sector as it creates jobs for many but such practices cannot be supported if those jobs will be offered in the expense of hundreds of workers’ lives. The Ministry of Labor should make public the investigation reports from March and offer and explanation. The biannual investigations of the coal-mines have proven inadequate. Several mineworkers claim that the company is notified in advance prior to investigations, the mine site is cleared upon notice, the risky sites are closed and the investigators conduct only an ostensible evaluation. The Ministry and the government should offer an explanation of the reasons to their hesitation to sign the ILO Safety and Health in Mines Convention, 1995 (176).
Peoples’ Democratic Party’s motion to an investigation dated October 2013 regarding the working conditions and the worker deaths at Uyar Mining, a company that also operates in Soma, was neglected and the issue we had underlined back then unfortunately came into light today. The government had also rejected the other motions that were brought to the floor that similarly had brought the coal-mining industry and the mining sites in Soma to question. The parliament should not cancel the general assembly as part of the nationwide mourning but get to work immediately to form a committee to investigate these issues at hand.
The chairman of Soma Mining had declared they have managed to extract ten thousand tons of coal per day and also reduce the costs while doing so thanks to the “private market”. The reality is that the mineworkers here were forced to accept the horrific working conditions as they were left out of any other employment options and heavily indebted. The system designed in Soma to maximize the company’s profits led to the deaths of hundreds of indebted mineworkers.
It is the nature of capitalism that derives the capitalists and their political representatives to maximize profits in the expense of the exploitation of the surplus value and, if necessary, the lives of many. As a result, worker deaths are unavoidable consequences of this system. On the other hand, the struggle against capitalism and the right to organize and protest are the roots of the working class movement. Peoples’ Democratic Party aligns itself with the struggle of the workers and struggle for liberty in this conflict.
In light of the Soma massacre, we underline the importance and urgency of the following:
*The agony and mourning of the mineworkers’ families should be treated with utmost respect and the necessary measures should be taken to ensure that the mourning families receive the bodies of their loved ones. Soma should not be turned into a political arena for state and government officials to propaganda.
*An official investigation on the company representatives should be launched immediately, and Soma Mining’s operational license should be revoked. The claims that unregistered and child laborers and employed should be responded. Soma Mining’s coal-mining production should be stopped until further investigation proves their practices safe.
*The Ministers of Energy and Labor should report to the General Assembly immediately and take on the responsibility to form an investigation committee to handle the ongoing dire situation of increasing work deaths and unsafe working conditions.
*Privatizations should be put an end to, the already-privatized enterprises should be nationalized, and the subcontracting system should be terminated. The government should ensure that all workers are insured and the legislation regarding subcontracting should be repealed.
Selma Irmak Levent Tüzel
HDP Şırnak MP HDP Istanbul MP