Pınar Öğünç / DUVAR
Security guards, particularly those who work at hospitals, face a great risk of contracting coronavirus as they are the first people that encounter the patients. There are those who have contracted coronavirus, and those who have succumbed to it. There is hardly anyone hearing their voices. A man in his 30's who has worked for nearly a decade as a security guard in a state hospital is explaining his routine when he leaves work, sometimes his voice shakes due to exhaustion or rage. Every day he is face to face with more than 1000 people. If he is fortunate to find a mask he has to use it for 12 hours. There are those who have contracted coronavirus, and those who have succumbed to it. There is hardly anyone hearing their voices. You will read an honest account of his personal experience through his own words.
"Every time I come home I'm scared. I try to act in a way that will bring the least possible harm to my family. While still in the front of the door I change my clothes and put them in a plastic bag, and then into the washing machine, which I run every day at 60 degrees. Then I take a shower. If I am not coughing or don't feel that I have a fever, I examine myself and then I go to be with my wife and child. I have a five-month-old baby, and as a result my wife is unable to work.
During our 12-hour shift, only one mask is given to us, if one is given at all. There are no gloves, no disinfectant, nothing! When we bring this up, they act as if we are asking for a favor. I don't know if this is a positive thing or not, but there are doctors from our emergency room who have been quarantined. It is not possible for us to know the specific number, at the moment there are patients who have tested positive for the virus in intensive care, there are around fifty patients who have been isolated.
Security guards, particularly those who work in hospitals, face a great risk as we are the first people that encounter the patients. There are suspicious cases that arrive continually. When I started this job I took a type of distance education. It's up to the system, and it lasts 30 days, but of course it's nothing like real education. What is most important is that we cannot protect ourselves. When we say this to our superiors they say “go and get yourselves some [disinfectant] cologne.”
It's as if there is some pragmatic notion that it is not their responsibility to meet these needs. By using my relationship with the hospital, I try to get masks from our departments and from coworkers that I know. I am thankful to them, it's not an issue if they have extras on hand. Most of my security guard friends are working without masks. They just made a new request, yesterday morning they gave one out to everyone. Two weeks ago I wasn't feeling well. I made an appointment in the family health department and was treated. Due to the fact that my nose was running, they didn't think it was important and they sent me off. Maybe I passed on the virus, who knows?
I have been working at the hospital for ten years. Initially I started as a security guard at a store, then later I moved on to the hospital. Since I come from a family of 11 brothers and sisters our economic situation prohibited us from studying, on the other hand I studied while working at the hospital. We are up against administrations that are not on the side of labor. People who are not members of the unions that they want them to join can face problems. There is a union that directly communicates with the government, on paper it exists but it is not actually a union. We are hearing from coworkers at other hospitals who are being assigned to temporary stints of two or three months. They are sending people to the hospitals that are busier. They do this by bringing up the current situation but they don't send their own friends to the hospitals that are at a high risk. The ones who are sent are forced to sign the contract as they have no other choice.
Normally I was going to have a vacation in March, but until a further order is made vacations have been cancelled. We also don't not get the benefit of extra pay like healthcare workers. We have no rights at all. We work a rotating shift. 12 hours, but we work 11 and have a one-hour break. We work one day during day, the next one at night, 45 hours a week. Normally its quite tiring. Let me explain it this way, you are working by a door as a security guard, but are also required to act as a guide or like an information booth. Regardless of how you look at it you come face to face with 1500 people in a day. Dozens of visitors and companions. And during this sort of period, there isn't even the slightest improvement. The labor laws are clear, if the employer wants they can put us to work for 40 hours a week, at least let's be more flexible, I said. It was useless. The flexible system that the Ministry of Health announced doesn't apply to us. We are working without any changes.
Security guards are ignored everywhere. We are everywhere, but it is as if no one sees us. They even made it illegal for us to resign for three months. We are dealing with patients one on one, and there are those who have wanted to resign because they at at risk but they have been prevented from doing so. Think about it, wouldn't you feel like a prisoner? So many of your rights have been violated, you want to work in a healthy environment, and it's not happening. You are forced to deal with it. You are looking to salvage the day.
And on top of it all, there are no rewards for our labor. We aren't exaggerating. As you know, during the first weeks [of the virus reaching Turkey] we had security guards die. There is so much anxiety but the empire of fear won't allow you to raise your voice."
On the day we spoke, it was announced that there were 10,827 cases of coronavirus and 168 deaths.
Many people speak of this unpredictable state of emergency created by a virus that surrounded the planet in a matter of months, which will make the current inequalities of capitalism more visible while deepening them, and that after this nothing will be the same again. Will it really not be the same? Why wouldn't it? How is it possible to 'heal' when an order indebted to deep inequality, the sexist division of labor, and exploitation in every aspect surrounds our bodies like a malicious virus? Women, men, workers, civil servants, the unemployed, white-collar workers, blue-collar workers, those saying that the “collar” era has changed, freelancers, those who work at home, people still working, those forced to work, those under quarantine, those who can't see the future, and those worn out from what they have seen are telling their stories. The reason for having started this series of long articles is for hearing each others' voices and searching for our own strength in those of others.