Families of occupational accident victims wait years for compensation

The families of workers who died in occupational accidents have complained of waiting for years to be compensated for their loss, the Birgün daily reported.

Families said the lawsuits dragged on for years, and in most cases they were not compensated for the loss of a loved one. “A human life cannot be regarded so cheaply,” said Sema Erdem, whose brother died while working on the set of a television series. “Nine years have passed since my brother’s death, but the trial is still dragging on. Justice served late is not justice at all,” she said.

Her brother Selim Erdem, 26, was working for a popular TV show when he died after a car pinned him against a metal door. The driver of the car was arrested but released four months later, and nobody else in the production company was held accountable, nor did Erdem’s family receive any compensation.

The family is outraged that nobody else was held accountable and that the driver was released so quickly. “Courts protect people in positions of power by granting them impunity, and in this case the employers are powerful,” said Sema Erdem.

The family of 17-year-old Eren Eroğlu said they too had been seeking justice for seven years. Eroglu was trying to fix the signboard of a hospital when he accidentally touched a high-voltage transmission line above the hospital. The youngster subsequently died of his injuries.

According to the family, an expert report found municipal authorities had been negligent in taking the necessary safety measures concerning the power line. A city council member, a company manager and a foreman were tried on charges of negligence, but none of them served any time in prison.

Eroğlu’s father, Erdinç Eroğlu, said they demanded that the owner of the hospital stand trial for negligence as well. “Our search for justice is still continuing,” he said.

Ertuğrul Bilir, from the Health and Safety Labor Watch (İSİG), said trials concerning occupational accidents dragged on for at least 10 years and that the courts often protected employers, adding that such impunity paved the way for negligence and further accidents.

According to İSİG data at least 200 workers died in occupational accidents in the first eight months of this year.

In a previous statement, İSİG General Coordinator Murat Çakır said the reason for the record number of fatalities in work-related accidents has to do with the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which he said aim to turn Turkey into a source of cheap labor for Europe.

People have been suffering from lax work safety standards for decades in Turkey, where workplace accidents are nearly a daily occurrence. In the worst work-related accident in the country’s history, 301 miners died in an explosion in Manisa’s Soma district in May 2014.

The country ranked first in Europe in the number of fatal workplace accidents in 2018, with 1,541 work-related deaths, according to the European Statistical Office (Eurostat) and Turkey’s Social Security Institution (SGK) data.

A total of 28,380 people have died in workplace accidents in Turkey since the ruling AKP came to power in 2002, according to an İSİG report released in November.

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