Turkish minister criticises ILO, denies poor job safety record

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi dismissed the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) ranking of Turkey as the country with the third highest number of workplace fatalities in the world, while speaking in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.  

The ILO report also ranked Turkey as the country with the largest number of workplace deaths in Europe for 2012. Zeybekçi rejected these figures, saying he was skeptical of their validity. “I don’t know these numbers, but in this matter I do not think Turkey is the third worst in the world,” he said. “Hundreds of countries have not been able to join the ILO, this is why they are showing these numbers,” the economy minister added.

 “Of course we are very saddened by what happened in Soma. We lost nearly 300 of our brothers. I have been in Washington for the past two days, but I am there with all my heart and my prayers. I wish that such a disaster had not taken place. We will learn great lessons from this,” Zeybekçi continued, saying Turkey is approaching the top 10 largest economies in the world and that it is Turkey’s goal to be among the top 10 countries in terms of human rights, the rule of law, democracy and working conditions.  

Turkey, which has been a member of the ILO since 1932, has refused to sign ILO conventions on miners’ safety and working conditions. Convention No. 176, introduced in 1995, was ratified by 28 countries, including the US, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Armenia and Zimbabwe. The convention was established for the purpose of protecting mine workers from injury and protecting the environment from mining-related damage. 

ILO officials contacted by Today’s Zaman declined to comment on Zeybekçi’s comments but said that the organization planned to translate convention No. 176 into Turkish. 

According to recent statistics from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, out of 1.5 million workplaces in Turkey, less than 9,000 were inspected last year. In the last 11 years, only 90,000 inspections have taken place. From this number, 46,000 workplaces were discovered by Social Security Institution (SGK) inspectors to have uninsured workers or workers holding fake insurance. 

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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