U.S. company Vectrus Systems Corporation – which handles day-to-day base operations and maintenance services on İncirlik air base in Turkey’s southern Adana province – is laying off its 424 Turkish employees.
The company notified its decision to the Turkish Defense Workers’ Trade Union (Türk Harb-İş), saying that it will terminate the employment contracts of its 424 staff by Feb. 20.
The head of the union’s Adana branch said that a total of 890 Turkish staff are working for the U.S. company on the air base, 424 of whom will be laid off. “We told them [the U.S. company] that these layoffs are not ethical and people will be adversely affected due to the economical conditions we are in. This is absolutely not acceptable,” Erdal Akalın was quoted as saying by Turkish media on Jan. 21.
Vectrus Systems Corporation cited the “U.S.’ reducing its presence in Syria” as the reason of the staff reduction, said Akalın.
“The U.S. government wants to pull out of the region. The company employs workers to the extent that is authorized by the government. These are the statements of the company officials. They said, ‘The U.S. is pulling out, and because of this, we are going for a staff reduction,’” said Akalın.
Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Orhan Sümer met with some of the workers on the air base and reacted against the layoffs, saying Turkey is paying a heavy price for its “wrong Syria policy.”
He said that in line with the policies of the U.S., the number of personnel working on the air base was previously increased but then, with a shift in the U.S. policy, these workers will be laid off.
“We are paying the price for the wrong Syria policies of the U.S. and Turkey with billions of dollars spent, millions of refuges who have sought shelter in our country and now with hundreds of unemployed people,” Sümer said.
The lay-off decision came amid reports that the future of the vast air base, which hosts U.S. nuclear warheads, is currently uncertain. The air base has been a longstanding symbol of U.S.-Turkish cooperation, but with Ankara and Washington at loggerheads over a myriad of issues, the future of the air base is increasingly murky.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in December that the country could shut down the base in response to threats of U.S. sanctions.
With U.S.-Turkish relations at their lowest ebb in decades, experts have said Washington could be thinking of taking steps to end its dependence on İncirlik and might seek alternatives.