Translated from Turkish by Translators for Justice
by H. Burak Öz/ Birgün newspaper
Six months ago workers at a local factory in Istanbul, Turkey woke up to a terrible surprise: Their bosses Ümit Somuncu and Mustafa Umut Somuncu disappeared without paying four months in back salaries or any severance pay. Later on, having already occupied the factory for months, one day the workers came back to their workplace only to discover that parts of the machinery had been illegally removed from the grounds. The owners did so because the workers had decided to produce the goods themselves and had tested the production line just the day before.
The workforce only became more determined. Now, on the 180th day of their struggle, they are beginning mass production, which has added a new dimension to their resistance in a way that is typically seen in Argentina and Greece but rarely in Turkey.
They fixed the machines
Reacting to such trampling of their rights, including wrongful dismissal and covert attempts to transfer factory property, Kazova workers occupied their workplace. They continued their resistance through hunger strikes under heavy assaults by police. Having reclaimed the machine parts transferred to a neighboring building by their bosses, and by fixing the broken machine parts, the workers have added a new dimension to their struggle by now sustaining production in the occupied factory without a boss. The workforce celebrated the beginning of production by gathering with supporters in front of the factory. “We are so excited,” one of the workers said. “This is the sound of machines that have remained idle for months. No one will ever be able to exploit our labor again.”
Production in the factory, celebration outside
While goods were being produced inside the factory, the workers and their supporters celebrated the commencement of production outside dancing and singing. The members of the music band Group Yorum supported the workers with their presence and entertained them with music. Türkan Albayrak, an important figure in the struggle for workers’ rights, came to lend a hand. Having been laid off from the Pasabahce Public Hospital, Türkan began her own individual resistance and has become a symbol after winning a victory against the hospital. In the meantime, the Kazova workers announced they finished weaving the first round of materials.
Kazova workers then announced that they would initiate full capacity production today. One of the workers told a reporter the following: “What we are doing here has never been done in Turkey before. The bosses ran off, we fixed the machines and initiated production without them. There might be an assault. I don’t believe the state will let us go. Soon, they will come to cut our electricity. We are waiting for the support of everyone to join us in solidarity with us.”