The workers of Turkey are welcoming International Workers’ Day amid full coronavirus lockdown measures, which have been introduced in Turkey as of Friday 30 April, on the eve of the May Day protests which were planned to be organised throughout the country.
Many union members took to the streets in big cities, including Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakır (Amed) for May Day before the lockdowns were implemented.
Among those unions who organised a May Day protest in Ankara, were the All Municipality Civil Servants union (Tüm Bel-Sen) Energy, Industry and Mining Public Sector Union (ESM) and the Health and Social Service Laborers Union (SES).
“We will not give up on the 1 May and the Istanbul Convention, which are both under threat. As the labouring women, who work at home, in the health sector, education sector and in local government, we have faced great problems in the last year. Therefore we will continue our actions and events in all possible ways,” said İlkay Ersus, the women’s secretary at the TUMBELSEN union.
Nazan Karacabey, the co-chair of the SES Ankara Branch highlighted all those health workers who lost their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “1 May this year is very valuable and sorrowful for us,” she said. “We try to exist and struggle for public health risking our lives. But for the first time we have realised that public health workers were invisible.”
Karacabey went on: “The promises given for the improvement of the fillation and treatment services have turned out to be all empty promises now. None of the targeted results have been achieved in the heath sector. That is why we think that 1 May is very vauable in terms of public health this year.”
She listed the demands of women health workers: “Workers who are pregnant and new mothers working in the public health services have been ignored. Pregnant health workers and breastfeeding mothers should be given paid leave. Kindergardens should be opened for all working mothers, this is an urgent demand of ours.”
ESM Women’s Secretary Yağmur Dönmez stressed that police tried to silence their demands and their voice in the 1 May protest they organised in Ankara on Thursday. “We know that 1 May is a day of struggle, not a day of celebration. That is why we took to the streets despite the efforts to silence us,” Dönmez said.
“This year’s 1 May is very much linked to the Istanbul Convention struggle for us. The 1 May arena for us is also the arena where demands for gender equality are raised.”