649 workers committed suicide in last 9 years in Turkey: ‘Unionization is the way out’

Experts have pointed out the need for unionization and collective unity in the face of increasing suicide rates among workers in Turkey. According to statistics by the Workers' Health and Work Safety Assembly (İSİG), a total of 649 workers committed suicide in the country in the last nine years.

Nur Kaplan / DUVAR

Experts have emphasized the importance of unionization as 649 workers have committed suicide in Turkey since 2013 according to statistics by the Workers' Health and Work Safety Assembly (İSİG). They have pointed out that the rate of suicide among workers is rising during economic crisis periods and cited debts, mobbing and unemployment among the reasons for suicide.

Their comments came after the 19-year-old worker named Musa Yıldız committed suicide at a construction site last week in Istanbul. The 22-year-old security staff Ferhat Malkaver had also committed suicide at the same construction site just a few months ago.

Psychiatrist Gamze Akçay Oruç said that stressful and heavy working conditions, long work hours, job insecurity and obstacles preventing efforts for collective rights push the workesr to loneliness, hopelessness and anger which all might be a cause for suicide.

Akçay said that of all the deaths caused by suicide in the world, 75 percent happen in low-income and middle-income countries and especially among the working-age population.

“Although sociocultural differences are also a factor, it is likely for these ratios (of suicide) to increase in societies where class inequality, poverty, discrimination, injustice and loneliness persist and where cultural and social support networks are insufficient,” Akçay said.

Akçay said that most of the workers who committed suicide were previously going through feelings of hopelessness and loneliness at the point of changing their lives and these issues can be overcome through unionization.

“If workers can experience that they are not alone against the conditions in question, that the struggle in unity is possible and realize its changing potential, if a reaction as a social class can replace individual reactions, some sociological leaps can occur through the launch of a repairing power/will."

İSİG official Kanu Yıldırım said that the “collective structure” of the workers is being demolished and this makes employees “feel worthless all the time” and results in an increase in suicides.

Yıldırım said that “unemployment, indebtedness, heavy workload and oppression” can be considered as the basic work-related four factors that affect suicide rates. “As the inspection and domination of capital, increases, there is an increase both in the number of workplace homicides and worker suicides. And we can say that in parallel with the deepening of (job) insecurity, there is an increase in workplace suicides.”

Citing the data by the Research Center of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK-AR), Yıldırım said that only 49.3 percent of the Turkish youth are in the employment sector. He said that there has been an increase in the number of people unable to pay their debts in recent years. He also pointed out that workplace homicides occur in businesses that have no affiliation with any unions.

“The most effective and permanent move against worker suicides and workplace homicides is to regain the unionization and collective unity crashed by capital,” he said.

(English version by Didem Atakan)