On 6 February, two devastating earthquakes measuring 7.7 and 7.6 on the Richter scale killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria. 13.4 million people, 15.7 per cent of Turkey’s population, live in the ten cities affected by the earthquake; Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Adana, Adıyaman, Osmaniye, Hatay, Kilis and Malatya and Elazığ.
The earthquake-affected region generates 9.3 per cent of Turkey’s gross domestic product (GDP). The region accounts for around 11 per cent of enterprises and taxpayers in Turkey, with an input of 8.5 per cent to the overall exports of the country. The share of employees covered within the social security scheme in the region is 11.7 per cent.
In its early estimates, the World Bank said that the earthquake caused direct damages of up to US$34.2 billion, equal to 4 per cent of Turkey's GDP in 2021. According to different estimations, reconstruction of cities and houses may cost the double or triple of that amount.
The joint mission from 21-24 February visited seven of the affected provinces, a 1,500-km drive from Adana to Malatya, and observed with great sadness the enormous damage where most towns have been turned into piles of debris.
The mission was shocked to witness the complete collapse of the ancient city Antakya, close to the Syrian border. The 114 seconds of the first earthquake were far more destructive than the war for the city just across the border in Syria, which have now lost all of its historical heritage.
Community solidarity, from other parts of the country and from all over the world, has come out in force as rescue operations, humanitarian aid with food and cloth assistance and shelter have arrived in the region. Food banks with free hot meals are in place, and tents and containers continue to be installed for accommodation under the harsh winter conditions. However, people still need more tents for survival.
The mission visited visited twelve unionized workplaces and met workers and local union representatives. The region play an important role in manufacturing, particularly in the textile-garment, steel, engineering, oil-gas and mining sectors. Some workplaces have already started to operate without full capacity.
Affiliated trade unions, like Petrol-İş, Teksif, Tes-İş, Öziplik-İş, Özçelik-İş, are reporting direct membership losses. Most of the surviving workers have lost immediate family members, relatives and close friends. Union members report collapse and severe damage to their houses. Workplaces are offering temporary accommodation, while some workers have sought out other cities. It is reported that 2 million people have applied to the government for help to leave the region.
Turkish trade unions have mobilized to help members and communities. Unions formed their own rescue teams, or joined others, to save lives. Thousands of miners from other regions travelled to the affected area and played an important role in the rescue efforts. The whole country has recognized the extraordinary efforts of miners.
As of 8 February, a state of emergency for 90 days has been declared for the affected region. During that time, employers will not be able to lay off workers or cancel service contracts.
Says Luc Triangle, General Secretary of IndustriAll European Trade Union:
“The mission was the most tragic moment in my life with what I observed.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to find the bodies of those still trapped under the wreckages. Cities and houses can be rebuilt, but unfortunately, we cannot bring back those who we have lost. It is time to show strong solidarity with our affiliates for their affected members in the region.”
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary, says:
“What we witnessed during our mission is unforgettable and leaves a big trauma in our minds. The reality is much worse that what we have seen on any screen,”
“It is time for our global and European families to show solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the affected areas. We have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them during these difficult times.”
Unions who wish to assist financially can contribute to the solidarity fund:
Bank name: Cler Bank
Bank address: 6-8 Place Longemalle, CH - 1204, Genève, Switzerland
Account holder's name: IndustriALL Global Union
Account holder's address: 54bis, route des Acacias 1227 Carouge Genève, Switzerland
Swift code: BCLRCHBB
Iban code: CH70 0844 0145 2523 1139 0
Bank account number: 145252.311390-0