It was reported to soL that the dispute in the building site and management continues because the main problem is that managers at various levels have not been able to convince Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the realistic plan – which means that, as much as the approach of the companies, Erdoğan’s obstinacy also underlies the conditions that drove the airport workers to go on strike in September.
The managers, on the other hand, pass the buck to each other saying, “If you don’t finish the job until that date, you explain it to Reis.” “Reis” (roughly “Chief) is a word used by Erdoğan’s supporters to refer to him.
It was announced earlier this year that Erdoğan would land on the 3rd airport in İstanbul on October 29, the Republic Day, celebrated in the memory of the foundation of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, therefore the Republic, in 1923. However, with the reports on the inhumane conditions workers are forced to live and work in, it was also revealed that the date was not realistic for an opening.
Having protested several times what is considered worthy of them, workers in the construction site finally rose against the poor conditions, pressure, threats, and mobbing in September. The poor conditions in the site have been on the agenda of the public for a long time, and the government attempted to suppress the protests by attacking the workers on strike in mid-September. The police had taken 543 workers into custody and arrested 30 of them.
The operations in the construction site are executed by three main components, and based on the assumption that the airport must be ready until the date given fait accompli. These three components are the İGA (the consortium of companies who came together to build the airport), the DHMİ, and Turkish Airlines (THY). Since no one dares to admit the realistic opening date to Erdoğan, the working conditions in the construction site get worse and worse every day.
It is reported that the routes to start the work and the leave procedures change each day, which makes it more and more difficult to work. Delays due to the tough conditions are tried to compensate with mandatory overtime work. In the electric-work sub-contractor EHA, for instance, which is one of the two biggest sub-contracting companies at the site and has three of the five companies in the consortium (Cengiz, Limak, and Kolin) as partners, every Sunday is filled with mandatory shifts until the opening, and the workers have been notified that those who do not stay for overtime would be fired. Similar cases are seen in various levels in nearly 750 other sub-contracting firms.
Some managers at the construction site reported to soL that the most common joke among the people who work for the 3rd airport project is: “If you don’t finish the job until that date, you explain it to the Chief.”
One of the engineers on the field says that, if the DHMİ release expressed that “the opening of the airport will be delayed to 2 or 3 months later due to the tests being conducted”, the present pressure depending on the unrealistic aims would be reduced, and a more rational and carefully-planned working environment could be formed.
Some workers in the site, who are also members of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), state that no clarity is present and the pressure and tension is much higher in the working environment at the moment now that nobody wants to be held liable. The İGA instructed all of the companies to increase the number of workers in the site which was claimed to be in its last days.
It appears that the 3rd airport will be opened suitably for Erdoğan to show off on October 29. But still, the questions remain: When will that airport be able to carry out all of the operations? How will the remaining construction work be carried out in the meantime?
However, the most critical topic which cannot find a place in mediatic discussions is the conditions of the workers. The numbers on the occupational murders occurred in the construction site are equivocal – while the government-supporter media claims it to be 27, it was revealed by the Health and Safety Labour Watch/Turkey that at least 37 workers were killed since the beginning of the construction.