Small businesses to protest government's lack of financial help amid pandemic: 'We can't make ends meet'

Small business owners and employees, trying to stay afloat amid the COVID-19, will stage a protest in Istanbul's Kadıköy district on Jan. 5, highlighting the government's lack of support for them. “We cannot make ends meet. We want our lives back....The small-sized supports have not solved any problem,” they said.

A woman walks during a weekend curfew in Istanbul's Kadıköy district.

Serpil Kurtay / DUVAR

Small business owners and employees will on Jan. 5 hold a protest demanding support from the government amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The protest will be held at Istanbul's Kadıköy Square at 5 p.m. local time and will include members of the Craftsmen's Association, the Solidarity Network of Cafe/Bar Employees, Turkey Liquor Stores (“Tekel”) Platform, Hotel and Tourism Workers Union and Istanbul Cooks Association.

A statement released by the associations prior to the protest said that the government's support has so far stayed insufficient and their demands have not been met. “We cannot make ends meet. We want our lives back....The small-sized supports have not solved any problem,” their statement said.

The statement also criticized the government for banning licensed liquor stores from selling alcohol during weekend lockdowns. “These vendors can no longer operate during hours during which normally make the most sales,” the statement said.

Another issue that the associations have touched upon is the short term work allowance, which is one of the economic measures that the government has taken against COVID-19. The allowance however does not benefit those working in the informal (uninsured) labor market.

The head of Kadıköy branch of the Craftmen's Association (KADIDER), Tuncay Savaşlı, has pointed out that Turkey's entertainment sector has a very high prevalence of informal employment, as a result of which many employees could not have benefitted from the government's short term work allowance.

Savaşlı also recalled that enterprises that have a bar/pub license were never allowed to resume operation since the beginning of the pandemic in March.

“During this period, unpaid leave and short term allowance should be provided at least at the level of the minimum wage. Small enterprises should be given bank loans. The current loans should be deferred without any interest, and small businesses should be given rent allowances. Otherwise, they will go bankrupt and unemployment will spike further,” Savaşlı said, pointing out that a wave of social unrest is at the door.

Savaşlı said that several small business owners have been forced to sell their houses and cars. “The staff of several businesses are trying to live by on just 39 liras a day and on top of that, there is unpredictability. This creates serious anxiety among people,” he said.