Workers in Turkey secure unpaid wages after 12-day strike on 40-meter-high viaduct

After a 12-day strike at a viaduct on the Aydın-Denizli highway in Western Turkey, 51 workers successfully secured their unpaid wages.

Duvar English

Construction workers at the Aydın-Denizli highway site in Western Turkey have ended their 12-day strike after successfully securing unpaid wages.

The protest, organized by the Construction Workers Union (İYİ-SEN), saw 51 workers climbing a 40-meter-high viaduct they built to demand their salaries.

Despite being dismissed on the second day of their protest for “not complying with the employer’s integrity and loyalty,” facing raids by authorities at their hotel, and enduring harsh weather conditions, the workers persevered.

“We got what we were owed, we reached our goal. We made our voices heard to the people who needed to hear them,” a worker stated in a video shared by the Construction Workers Union on X, formerly known as Twitter, on May 29.

Speaking to the daily Evrensel on May 28, one of the workers from İnceoğulları stated that the company first started delaying payments in March.

However, after their situation garnered media attention, payments resumed, but money was withheld as they were "undeserving."

“TİP made a speech in the Parliament. Then they started coming with offers,” the worker said, referring to the Worker’s Party of Turkey. “It is as if we are bargaining here. We want the reward of our sweat and blood.”

According to the union, the strike has been a significant success for the workers employed by the İnceoğulları and Fernas construction companies.

The latter is run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker Ferhat Nasıroğlu.

“We congratulate our fellow workers who fought determinedly, relying on their union, despite all kinds of adverse sheltering and nourishment conditions in this process,” the union wrote in a message accompanying the video.

On the 9th day of protests, heavy rain fell, and two workers became ill, requiring medical care. Despite this, 39 workers continued to strike, with one returning to the protest after treatment.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) 2023 Global Rights Index, Turkey ranks as one of the worst countries for workers’ rights.

The country performed poorly due to the repression of strikes, arrests of trade unionists, and systematic union busting.

(English version by Wouter Massink)