280 forestry workers finish Turkish union’s OHS trainings
The Civil Servants’ Union of Agriculture, Forestry, Husbandry and Environment Sectors (TARIM ORMAN-IS) has recently concluded its occupational health and safety trainings for forest rangers and workers. Participated by a total of 280 forest workers, including 78 young workers with ages below 35, the union has completed three outdoor OHS trainings from June to July of this year.
Carrying the theme “OHS is a fundamental right,” the trainings increased awareness on the health and safety risks in the forestry sector and the mitigation measures needed to be employed on occurred risks brought about by COVID-19. Participants were given personal protection equipment (PPE) such as hardhats and vests.
Union leaders maximised the trainings by listening to the demands of rural workers such as decent work, safe and healthy working conditions and social security benefits.
On the other hand, workers used the trainings to discuss their current living and working conditions. They said that Turkey’s General Directorate of Forestry was never held responsible for workplace accidents and even abandoned the victims and their families in their hour of great need.
The workers also complained that they need to work excessively long hours to earn livable incomes. They said that this exposed them to greater health risks, such as serious work exhaustion. According to the union, In the first half of 2022 alone, more than 300 forestry workers have already lost their lives.
The OHS trainings encountered some setbacks when managers of the General Directorate of Forestry tried to block the third and last training in the city of Artvin. Despite securing all the necessary permits for the last training, the union was forced to look for another training place. This did not escape the vigilance of the national press which timely covered and reported the issue.
Fortunately, the workers were not easily intimidated. 128 workers participated in the last training, in a strong demonstration against managerial harassment and intimidation. This was witnessed by the OHS General Directorate of the Ministry of Labour, who attended the training and was impressed by the union’s resilience in fighting for workers’ rights.
Meanwhile, TARIM ORMAN-IS President Sukru Durmus vowed to continue raising awareness on the risks caused by the increasing demand from multinational companies for raw materials on wood and furniture. He accused the General Directorate of Forestry of selling forest materials from wildfire-affected areas way below their true market value to the said companies. Instead of launching a formal investigation on the matter, the General Directorate called for a “disciplinarian investigation” against Durmus, even if all previous attempts proved to be fruitless.
The Turkish forestry sector has the highest fatal incident rate with an average of 600 workers dying each year.