Türkiye: Union opposes return-to-work order in quake-hit workplaces

After a devastating earthquake hit Türkiye in 6 February, BWI affiliates in Türkiye, particularly Civil Servants’ Union of Agriculture, Forestry, Husbandry and Environment (TARIM ORMAN-IS) President Sükrü Durmuş, have been regularly visiting earthquake-affected areas to monitor the needs of union members and identify the problems of public servants in the forestry sector. The union emphasised the urgent need for the government to assess the real damage caused by the earthquake to public buildings and resolve the existing safety and health issues before insisting on public servants to return to work.

Durmus reported that “31 union members have lost their homes, with many working class families suffering from deep trauma. He said that its union has extended aid and assistance to affected members, such as covering their basic daily needs and helping them with the rebuilding and reconstruction efforts. The union leader also stressed that it is illegal to force workers to go back to work in buildings whose structural integrity and safety have been put to question because of the strong earthquakes. 

“The employers cannot allow workers to go back to work in buildings without any assurance that health and safety standards were met. It is also unacceptable to ask workers who have lost family members to return to work as soon as possible without considering the stress and trauma that they are suffering from. As such, our union has been making written and verbal warnings to the governorships and other relevant administrators that the return-to-work order is a mistake,” Durmus said. 


Heeding the unions’ call, the General Directorate of Forestry and governors revoked its return-to-work order to workers who were directly affected by the calamity. Instead, the government asked volunteer public servants from other cities to augment the workforce of the quake-hit areas for 2 months.

However,  TARIM ORMAN-IS said that it will still meet with its lawyers to plan the legal steps that it will take to secure labour rights, notably occupational health and safety and the right of workers to transfer to a different work. The union is also running an internal campaign to collect funds from its members to provide long-term assistance to its affected constituents.

The recent earthquakes in Türkiye, one of the deadliest natural disasters of the century, destroyed 11 cities in the southeast and east part of the country. 45,000 people have lost their lives, and millions more are left without homes and means of livelihood.

In the spirit of solidarity, the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) launched a Solidarity Fund to mobilise resources for the benefit of all the victims of the deadly and destructive earthquake. 

Donate to the workers affected by the earthquake. Go here.