Turkish forest workers stop forced collection of COVID-19 donations

22 May 2020 13:49

The Civil Servants’ Union of Agriculture, Forestry, Husbandry and Environment Sectors (TARIM ORMAN-IS) opposed moves by Turkey’s General Directorate of Forestry to unilaterally cut workers’ salaries as part of the government’s COVID-19 donation campaign. It said that workers, especially union members, who refused to contribute to the campaign were threatened by managers. 

The union said that the Directorate also initiated a worker-to-worker assessment survey, where workers will evaluate their colleagues’ performances. TARIM ORMAN-IS said that the timing of the survey was suspicious. It urged its members not to answer the questionnaires. 

“It is highly suspicious. This could lead to a non-objective evaluation, which will be used to blacklist workers based on their political views and union preferences,” TARIM ORMAN-IS President Sukru Durmus said. 

Durmus said that the union launched a campaign to oppose the practices and create public awareness. The union brought the issues before media’s attention, gave interviews to newspapers and widely-watched news channels. The union also filed an official complaint to assert the right of workers to refuse the forced donation drive.

As a result of the union’s intense campaign, the General Directorate of Forestry announced the cancellation of the said practices.

Meanwhile, TARIM ORMAN-IS launched a “health is a human right” campaign to raise awareness on the high rate of fatalities in the forest industry due to COVID-19 and unsafe working conditions. The union reported that six workers lost their lives due to COVID-19, while 123 workers have died since May 2020 because of workplace accidents. 

Durmus said that due to the increase in the industry’s annual target of production to 35 thousand cubic meters, which is almost triple its original target, paved the way for an increase in the number of subcontracted forest workers who have no professional training and experience, and work with no personal protective equipment (PPEs). 

The union said that it will start organising occupational health and safety (OHS) trainings on June 2020 targeting forest rangers and rural forest workers.