Migrant solidarity network on the resistance of saya-workers across Turkey

Via Migrant Solidarity Network – There has been news coming related to the strikes of saya (shoe-upper) workers from all corners of Turkey since more than a month. Saya workers organized boycotts and strikes in many cities from Konya to Manisa, from İzmir to Adana and from İstanbul to Antep because of following reasons: Non-covered employment without job security, bad working conditions and long working hours and ill-payments etc.

Happily, boycotts and strikes in Adana ended with a protocol meeting the demands of the workers that was signed between the workers and the employers. However, in İstanbul and other cities, the strikes have been finalized after pay rise that was accepted by the employers, but no protocol has been signed guaranteeing the demands of the workers. Therefore, because of this result the workers are worried about their future. Saya workshops where shoe leathers are cut, cleaned, and glued, continue threatening the health of the workers with their long and bad working conditions.

Most of the saya workers in many places of Turkey are Syrian workers. Only in İstanbul 70% of saya workers are Syrians and most of them are young and children. For this reason, it’s not a coincidence that foremost activists of the boycotts are children. Moreover, 80% of the workers in saya sector are uninsured. In brief, uninsured employment and child labor are key features of the sector.

It is very important and exciting not only because the saya boycotts and strikes have been organized almost everywhere in Turkey and the workers have achieved favorable outcomes in the conditions of State of Emergency (OHAL) but also all boycotts are organized together with Syrian workers and workers from Turkey. The saya actions invalidate the discourse consolidating racism towards migrants like “they steal our jobs, they take our livelihood away by working with lower payments” and it shows us once more that the enemy is not Syrian workers but the employers. Union achieved among the workers both from Turkey and Syria working at the Işıkkent Shoemakers Site and writing the declaration announcing of the strikes together and organizing the strikes commonly demonstrate us the power of solidarity clearly.

On the other hand, even pay rise achieved by the strikes is applied to all workers in the same way including the Syrian workers, they are still ill-paid than the workers from Turkey. And Syrian children continue to grow in saya workshops. There is much to do.  We need this practice that we have learnt from saya workers’ resistance and the other practices of textile workers in İstanbul Çağlayan and embroidery workers in Bağcılar to be widespread in other working places and sectors. We need to struggle against uninsured employment and child labor.

We ask everyone especially trade unions and professional organizations to deal with the problems of workers and to raise the working class brotherhood without making discrimination by race, sex and ethnicity!

Long live working-class solidarity!

Long live struggle of a free world without borders, exploitation and exile!

The text was published by Göçmen Dayanışma Ağı / Migrant Solidarity Network