The striking railway workers say that the İZBAN management, a railway company in Turkey's İzmir province, resorts to an unconstitutional act of strike-breaking by employing seven retired train drivers during the strike in the absence of hundreds of workers and necessary railway controls and maintenance system.
Over 300 workers have been on strike for two weeks after they disagreed with the İZBAN management, a commuter rail system operating in the western Turkish metropolitan city of İzmir, during the collective bargaining process regarding their wages.
soL news talked with Berkan Arda and Ahmet Güler, two railway workers from İZBAN. As the employing company unlawfully resorts to strike-breaking and operates the rail system with few inexperienced personnel, Arda indicated to the lack of standard and periodical technical maintenance mechanism in answer to a question about what sort of risks the people are facing.
"All the friends who carry out maintenance and controls are on strike at the moment. Now, the İZBAN management is trying to have the engineers carry out pre-service controls. But the engineers do not have any experience of maintenance and control," he said.
Talking about the required weekly maintenance works, he said, "The weekly maintenance is detailed. And the most critical and the most important maintenance is the weekly one. As far as we understand, now they are trying to carry out this maintenance with very few engineers. Or at least, it may seem to be carried out just on paper. We cannot know whether it is being carried out or not. But as I said, these friends do not have any field practice."
In response to a question about what possible risks the passengers are facing due to inadequate pre-journey controls, "All kinds of risks," he said, indicating to the importance of weekly maintenance, through which the possible technical disorders -for example, any fractures- could be detected. He said that he did not think the required controls were carried out properly because the railway company forced to operate the rail system with a few inexperienced employees during the workers' strike.
'TRAINS MAY DERAIL, CARS MAY ROLL OVER'
He also noted that trains might derail or even cars might roll over if necessary technical maintenance works were not carried out properly, adding that most of the train accidents stemmed from the derailment. His co-worker, Güler, also said that some technical disorders might possibly lead to derailment of train cars.
Arda told soL that 65 workers had been employed at İZBAN for the department of maintenance and control works, adding that all these experienced workers were on strike at that moment while only six or seven inexperienced engineers were instructed by the company to carry out such important control works.
"Now, we are facing a series of infinite possibilities of accidents. Now, the İZBAN management is taking a huge risk," he said. "We warn them. The sole responsible for any possible accident or disaster will be the İZBAN management that has resorted to strike-breaking," Güler said.
The workers told soL that the railway company was urging some retired drivers to operate the trains every 24 minutes for 5,5 hours in the morning and 6 hours in the evening in some lines. They underlined that İZBAN instructed its seven retired train drivers who are over the age of 60 to operate the trains for such a high daily tempo.
“I would not use the İZBAN trains in this situation. I would not let my family and friends use them. The İZBAN lines are a signalization-based system. If the drivers continue to work under such circumstances we have talked about, they may make many mistakes. Now, there are few drivers, but the work is intense,” Güler said, while Arda concluded that they were not using the İZBAN trains as passengers during the strike, noting that it would be very risky.
LABOR COURT DECISION TO STOP TRAIN SERVICES
Meanwhile, a labor court in İzmir has decided on an interim cautionary measure on December 24 that the train services would be stopped following the legal appeal of the Union of Railway Workers (Demiryol-İş) on the grounds that the strike-breaking railway company was violating the workers’ constitutional rights to strike.
After an expert report, the court decision founded the İZBAN management unjust, legally approving that the company acted as a strike-breaking authority and unlawfully operated the trains during the strike.
The Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) has supported the railway workers’ struggle from the very beginning in İzmir. TKP members have distributed thousands of leaflets around the city in order to lend support to the striking workers, calling on the people of İzmir to back the struggle and constitutional rights to collective bargaining.