Laborers working on the construction of a railway line between the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır and Mardin left their jobs on April 15, demanding better working conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak. The next day, 128 workers were denied entry to the factory who then staged a demonstration in front of the site.
The company building the railway line is owned by Cengiz Holding, which is known for its close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The conglomerate was among the companies that built Istanbul's new airport, and has won the tenders for other major infrastructure projects.
Owner Mehmet Cengiz was the subject of infamy in 2014 when a voice recording surfaced of him appearing to say “We will f*ck this country.”
“They wanted us to stay for 15 days at the factory and we accepted this. The 15 days ended, and we wanted to go home but they didn't allow us to do so. They said they wanted us to stay until the upcoming holiday. Normally we work 12 hours a day, and they increased this to 14 hours. We want precautions to be taken, and our working hours and wages to be adjusted,” said one worker that spoke to the Mesopotamia News Agency.
“They won't let us go home but there are people coming in from outside. Workers from another section of the factory are coming and going home. These workers are coming in without being checked at all. But we can't go home. There is no sort of precaution whatsoever. They give us one mask, which we use for a month. A mask that is supposed to be used for one day we use for a month,” the worker said.
The workers who were not allowed inside the site said that they were fired in a de-facto manner.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Mahmut Tanal addressed the issue via a tweet, which brought up the fact that while parliament was currently engaged in discussions over legislation that would temporarily ban companies from firing employees, Cengiz Holding had terminated dozens of its employees working at the railway site.