'One fifth of Turkey's shopping mall employees infected with COVID-19'

Some twenty percent of Turkey's shopping mall employees have contracted COVID-19, a recent survey revealed. Shopping malls were among the first businesses to reopen in June after the first wave of infections, and have remained open since.

Mahir Bağış / DUVAR

Some twenty percent of shopping mall employees in Turkey have contracted COVID-19, according to a recent survey by Turkey's Trade, Cooperative, Education, Bureau and Fine Arts Workers' Union (Tez Koop-İş).

Shopping malls in Turkey were among the first businesses to re-open in June after the first wave of COVID-19 infections, and haven't shut down since, although food courts remain closed and visitors are subject to health screenings. 

"Considering that there are approximately 500,000 shopping mall employees in Turkey, it's unfortunately not surprising that 20 percent of them were infected," said Haydar Özdemiroğlu, Tez Koop-İş Chairman.

The union has experienced a boom in membership numbers over the past six months, the chairman said, noting that they more than doubled their numbers from 76,766 members to 107,823 members. 

The desire to unionize among workers possibly stemmed from the rough working conditions they are subjected to, including long hours and low wages.

"The pandemic didn't double these issues, it increased them by ten-fold," Özdemiroğlu said. 

Employers have been motivated to keep costs at a minimum, which overwhelms employees with an excessive workload, the chairman said, adding that workers are sometimes even denied 10-minute breaks.