Seasonal agricultural workers in Turkey struggle between exploitation and COVID-19

As the COVID-19 outbreak and limited precautions have not covered seasonal agricultural workers in Turkey, the workers faced a life struggle between exploitation, survival, and pandemic.
Thursday, 09 April 2020 14:02

COVID-19 cases and casualties have been increasing dramatically since March ’20 in Turkey. During the outbreak, most of the companies started to force workers to use their annual leaves or to take non-paid leaves to take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. On the other hand, seasonal agricultural workers are not able to benefit from the measures that have been taken against the pandemic and even facing the worst.

The government avoided to aid seasonal workers in the agricultural sector and even eased the transportation of the workers to croplands amidst the intercity travel restrictions for 30 cities.

In the country, for the government, traveling to 30 travel-banned cities is not risky only for the seasonal agricultural workers, according to the two bills declared on the 3rd of March ’20.


Workers are traveling to the crop fields from cities in the crowded trucks without any distances each other, Murat Çakır, an official from Occupational Health and Safety Centre described.

There has been no guaranteed health insurance, security, transportation, and nourishment fort he agricultural workers in the country for years. Many casualties are caused by these reasons, even without the pandemic recently occurred. Çakır underlined the serious risk of COVID-19 impact on the workers and underlined there is no necessary precautions are taken from the officials and the companies.

The workers even forced to eat their lunches from the same pot together, Çakır described. Under these circumstances, Çakır warned the serious threat of the disease should be put alive to prevent a disaster.


Seasonal workers in agriculture are not paid regularly, without insurance, always absent from home, and can only work for a few months in a year, Melahat who is a seasonal worker in Diyarbakır told; they can face starvation if they couldn’t go the crop fields. It is also difficult to find jobs for short terms to gain incomes for seasonal workers.