Turkish grocer Şok under fire over reports of forcing staff to work overtime due to weekend lockdown

Turkish grocery chain Şok is under fire over reports that it is abusing its workers by extending working hours during the coronavirus outbreak in order to make up for hours lost to weekend lockdowns. One of the Şok workers told Bianet that she had been forced to work 12 hours a day last week and had been threatened by managers not to talk to journalists about this issue.

Duvar English

Workers of Turkish discount retailer Şok have been recently protesting on social media that they are forced to work up to 14 hours a day to make up for working hours lost to weekend lockdowns amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Following the curfew, our [weekly] leave days have been annulled and our daily working hours have gone up to 14. We keep pondering about how we will go home after work,” read a message on a Twitter account set up by Şok employees.

One of these workers is Elif T. who told online newspaper Bianet that the company had threatened to fire them if they speak to journalists regarding this issue.

“Since they [company officials] have been slammed on the social media and this issue was seen on [newspaper] reports, they are now more soft [on us], but regional managers have been threatening to fire us if we talk to journalists,” Elif T., who is working at one of the supermarkets in the northwestern province of Kocaeli.

Last week, Turkey imposed a four-day long curfew in 31 provinces. The opening hours of markets and grocery stores were determined as 8 a.m.-11 p.m. during the two days prior to the lockdown, i.e. on April 21-22.

Elif T. said that she came across on social media other Şok employees who have said that they were forced to work 14-15 hours during these two days. “In my store, we have worked 12 hours. We opened the store at 9 a.m. and I worked until 9 p.m. But some of my colleagues in other stores have said that they were pushed to work until 9 p.m. for two days,” she said.

“I had previously argued with my managers that I have a problem going home should I leave work at a late hour. So, I am able to leave work early. But, they are telling those who do not want to work under these conditions [extended hours] that we need to fulfill our weekly working hours.”

Elif T. said that Şok workers can no longer benefit from their weekly days off following the implementation of the weekend curfews. “Due to the curfew, they [company officials] are counting the quarantine as weekly leave day,” she said.

'Şok forcing employees to deliver orders on foot'

She also touched upon Şok's recent home delivery service to customers, saying the company has been forcing its workers to deliver orders on foot and provides insufficient number of personal protective equipment such as latex gloves.

Previous reports suggested that the company has been firing employees who do not accept such working conditions.

“The pressure to home delivery is continuing. Regional managers pick up the employees with vehicles and make the deliveries if the [target] destination is far away. But for nearby destinations, we continue delivering on foot. We do not have a problem regarding masks, but the gloves they provide us suffice only for a couple of days. Once they are finished, I buy my own gloves using my own money,” Elif T. said.

“In such a period, the management can be a bit more understanding towards the employees. Working for 12 hours, engaging with people for 12 hours increases the possibly of contracting the virus at an exponential rate. They can provide more flexibility regarding working hours. They should call a halt to exploitation [of workers] at least during the coronavirus days,” she said.

Meanwhile,following criticism of its practices, Şok released a statement onApril 26, saying that it was not making its staff “work more thanthe weekly hours set forth by the laws.”

Itsaid that it was undertaking all safety precautions with regards tothe personnel's health at the “maximum level.”