The Turkish Medical Association (TTB), a professional association for doctors in the country, formed a committee to investigate the problems in production zones, particularly in the Organized Industrial Zone in Turkey’s western province of Manisa, after the rapid increases in COVID-19 cases in the region.
The committee, formed by the TTB Central Committee, the Manisa Chamber of Medicine, and representatives from the Occupational Health and Workplace Safety Branch and Public Health Branch of the TTB, has published a report on the recent situation in the Organized Industrial Zone in Manisa by consulting and interviewing with workers, workplace representatives, and occupational physicians.
Workers working at Vestel, who are forced to work for 12 hours a day amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, told that there were many workers who were prevented from admitting to the hospital for one week despite their complaints presenting symptoms and then tested positive for COVID-19, the report indicates.
Upon the rising COVID-19 cases in Vestel, the TTB also called for halting production in non-critical working areas in the city’s Organized Industrial Zone.
‘WORKERS WITH COVID-19 SYMPTOMS WERE PREVENTED FROM ADMITTING TO HOSPITALS’
Over 160 thousand workers are currently working in medium and small enterprises located in the Organized Industrial Zones of Manisa and Muradiye, while there are more than 200 thousand enterprises with 60 thousand workers and about 40 occupational physicians in the Manisa Organized Industrial Zone, the report says.
The TTB also informed in its report that there are approximately 19 thousand workers and 11 occupational physicians working at Vestel home electronics company’s factory.
Stating that workers are forced to work in two 12-hour shifts in Vestel, the TTB’s report underlines that 1500 workers work during only one shift in Vestel, while this number is 100 to 200 workers in most of the companies operating in the Organized Industrial Zone in Manisa.
As the TTB reminds the workers’ death due to COVID-19 in the Vestel factory last month, the report reads, ‘‘We detected that while workers had to get on the shuttle buses by 15-minute intervals before June 1, Vestel management has now removed this application. Therefore, there is overcrowding in the shuttles.’’
‘‘Workers in Vestel factory are given two cloth masks a month, but they are insufficient to protect workers from the COVID-19 because the masks have no noise wire,’’ it is stated in the report.
The TTB’s report also indicates that the Vestel management barred hospital access to the workers with the COVID-19 symptoms for one week, and then they tested positive for coronavirus, noting that the factory authorities have failed to implement necessary social distancing measures and provide sufficient protective equipment.
‘SHIFTS MUST BE DECREASED’
‘‘Reducing the shifts to 6 hours from 12 hours, decreasing the number of workers working on the same shifts and preventing the overcrowding in the shuttle buses is critical to get the spread of coronavirus under control,’’ the TTB warned in its report as solution recommendations.
Emphasizing that Vestel should implement necessary rules and practices, including social distancing measures, hygiene, and protective equipment, in all areas of the factory, the TTB suggested that training regarding the pandemic should continue, and a variety of visuals along with instructions should be used to ensure continuity of awareness about the necessary measures against COVID-19, in cases where face-to-face training cannot be possible.
AT LEAST 7 WORKERS REPORTEDLY DIED OF COVID-19 SO FAR
As the number of COVID-19 cases has been on the rise in the Vestel factory in Manisa since the beginning of the Turkish government’s ‘‘normalization’’ period introduced on June 1, at least 7 workers reportedly died of the coronavirus disease and dozens of them have been diagnosed with this deadly outbreak.
Speaking to soL news in early August, Vestel workers had told that the number of deaths and infections is much higher and the factory management is forcing the workers to work 12 hours to compensate for the labor loss due to the quarantine period.
‘‘If not coronavirus, the greed of the bosses will kill us. The number of the cases gradually increases and we do not want to share the same fate as our fellow workers dying young,’’ the workers said.
Although the factory management is believed to be hiding the real number of infected and deceased workers, the Manisa Chamber of Medicine claims that there are at least 1,000 positive cases in the Vestel factory.