Dev Yapı İş and İnşaat İş unions: We fight against conditions of slavery at construction sites

Dev Yapı İş and İnşaat İş unions are fighting together against the conditions of slavery at construction sites. Both unions say that they fight against usurpation of rights in this sector.

In the second part of the feature about Dev Yapı İş and İnşaat İş unions, which are very active in the construction sector, ANF talked with  Deniz Gider from İnşaat İş trade union about the usurpation of rights and working conditions in the construction sector.

Part one of this feature can be read here

The two unions have an area of organization that you run jointly. Can you tell us about it?

Construction is a very tough sector marked by circulation rather than continuity. For example, an area that can be completed in 10 years is done in 5 years with an incredible change in workers. As a matter of fact, our understanding of union is different from that of a metal factory, a textile workshop or a textile factory, shipyard or mine. We are proceeding with a more urgent vision of struggle, so to speak. Because the rights of the working class, which we can only call crumbs, are in question in the constitution. But even these are not applied in our sector. For example, in these construction sites, the salary of the worker is very very low, the rest is given by hand. Secondly, there is a lot of usurpation of rights. In fact, rights are stolen both from the worker's life and his money. What we have to do here is to say that we have our own laws and struggle against theirs. In other words, we have practices such as not only standing in front of the construction site and shouting slogans, but also chaining that door if necessary, chaining yourself there, protesting in the most unlikely places or wherever there are construction sites. We have a tradition and a history here, such as closing the Bosporus Bridge to traffic if necessary.

As to our policy, we don’t consider our job done just by affiliate members. If you have class consciousness, if you are sincere about it, first you have to establish a human connection with the worker. That's how it is in our industry. Let's say we have two unions today and we have 10 thousand members, but tomorrow this number will decrease. Because the workers come and go in our sector. If I get up here and say that I will get "affiliations" on the back of the worker for membership, and if I lean on my unionism here, I will only become a yellow union.Today, there is something more important than that money, and that is the worker's understanding of an organized militant struggle. Otherwise, there are fascist and yellow unions such as Hak-İş and Türk-İş saying that they are dealing with the minimum wage while they condemn workers to misery.

On the other hand, if the head of a union branch or the general chair of a union, or an official of the department, receives as much salary as a worker, this is reasonable. But if you receive 70, 80, 90 thousand liras, 100 thousand liras, you are already alienated. We reject this notion. Because it means that he no longer has contact with the worker with that number.

How are you received or known by the workers?

When we go to a construction site with Dev Yapı İş, they are waiting for us to appear in suits. However, we wear jeans, our shoes are torn, sunk in the mud or we already have yellow boots on the construction sites. As a matter of fact, the worker recognises you from there. We are in the age of communication. Workers comment on the posts we share on social media, for example. They see us as one of their people.

You give some confidence, don't you?

Of course, it's not really about the suit. I want to talk about this. The minimum wage is now 11,402 liras. Today, rents in metropolises are 15-16,000 liras. So a minimum wage earner cannot live here. This is also the case at construction sites. This man is from another region, he gets paid little money, he has to make a living here and send money to the family. Therefore, when we generalize, our understanding of the union must be from the perspective of a militant and struggling class.

The other issue is that there are too many deaths at construction sites and we cannot keep up with them. Because we don't have the strength.

You are being detained for your actions or the police are crowding in front of the construction site. For example, do these intimidate workers?

The battle is fierce and we are dealing with vultures. These bosses are not the kind of men who play okay in the cafe. These are the mafia! They say ‘I want to build here, take his permission and plunder’. These bosses are destroying nature, animals and our living space. When a worker goes to his door to demand his rights, the police are there.

It's not just a matter of rights. Everyone has a life. We all have concerns about the future. But workers on the construction sites have no life at all. Working hours are impossible and the job itself is very hard. So, after a day shift, all they can do is going to sleep.

There have been many protests and we have been detained and beaten up. For example, we organized a protest at the airport. And the workers showed their determination. We side with workers, and help them to get their rights.