Syrian in Turkish Factories: Long Working Hours for Low Salaries and No Insurance!

Investigations Friday 09th December 2016 |Manar Haddad

"Wael" heads to his work at a factory for household items every morning, in the industrial area of "Avcılar" in the Turkish city of Istanbul, ​​and he does not return to his home until the late hours of the night.

The young man, aged 29, who arrived in Turkey two years ago, is currently looking for any place to go to but Turkey, "The return to Syria is plausible Among the options", says Wael during his interview with "Rozana Radio."

He explains that he is tired of life here, ongoing work for 14 hours a day without rest, for an amount not even enough to secure the basic life requirements.

He sighed a bit and adds: "It is like I am living in the time of feudalism, fatiguing work for long hours for the price of food, drink, and housing only, I threw my degree of law behind and do not know what to do now."

To work

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian workers live in Turkey like "Wael", under unenviable conditions, with grueling working hours, low salaries, and without any insurance on their lives, health, and work.

The largest number of these workers is concentrated in many industrial areas in Istanbul, such as: " Avcılar, Esenyurt, Bayrampaşa, and Zeytinburnu."

What compounds the problem is the deliberate scam by the employers (Syrians and Turks) in the absence of any actual laws to protect the workers.

About 2.75 million Syrian refugees fled to the north of Turkey according to the Turkish official statistics, 2.5 million of them live outside the camps in the Turkish cities.

A good rate of these young Syrians whose ages ranging from [18-35] have fled the military service in Syria, some of them have college degrees or high school certificates, but they threw it behind and entered in the labor market where there are not any comfort standards available.

No Insurance

TheTurkish Labor Law which was amended in the mid-2013, defined three articles for foreign workers, either as an investor or resident as a worker in the investment sector, or a holder of a Work License, otherwise, the work will be against the law."

In an interview with "Rozana", the head of Syrian Liberal Lawyers’ Gathering, "Ghazwan Quronful"says: "The Syrians who have the Work License are very few and almost non-existent."

Quronful attributed the reason to the fact that the Work License needs complete documentation such as Syrian passport and entry stamp to Turkey, in addition to the presence of Tourist Accommodation, after the Syrians’ entry and exit became impossible after the imposition of the visa on them.

On the other hand, the Turkish employers do not activate the Work License of the Syrian refugee in order not to pay 500 TL monthly for that, according to Muhammad Nasan, who is a transactions’ pursuer for Syrians in Istanbul.

Nasan adds: "This license forces the employer to sign a contract with the Syrian worker with an insurance on his health and life, as well as insurance on his income in case the worker was fired from his work", and according to Nasan, work licenses for Syrian refugees are not good for the Turkish employers for that reason.

Long working hours and multiple produce!

In a meeting brought us together with Ahmed Suleiman in a youth housing in "Esenyurt", we met his friend Issa, who holds a degree in economics and fled from Syria because of the military service affiliated with the Syrian regime army.

The young man, aged 25 years, told us the story of his suffering with the long working hours, saying: "13 hours of ongoing work with only a half-hour break, when I go back home I cannot talk to my fiancée in Syria, because of until I get to bed like a dead body".

Issa confirms that the stress caused by long working hours and the large energy is spent in the production at the embroidery factory, explaining: "fabrics that are supposed to be embroidered within two weeks, we end it within one week or even less, and once we stop to take a rest, the Turkish employer yell at us "Jaboq Jaboq" which means "hurry up" in the Turkish language."

Issa evokes the story of a girl who fainted in the workshop, and the employer did not let her go until the workers persuade him hardly.

Despite "the Turkish Ministry of Labor" have determine the upper limit of working hours at 10 hours, but refugees cannot be protected by this law because they will be replaced with others who are more compelled for work under any hard conditions, and they will always get the answer: "If you do not like it, you can leave!"

Insufficient wages

Despite working for long hours, Syrian workers cannot find an enough payoff can bring them a decent life. After a survey conducted by Rozana on several Syrian workers that salaries were reduced for up to 700 or 800 T.L at a minimum, at the time that the Labor Law identified the salary at minimum 1,300 T.L.

However, the minimum wage is 1,300 pounds [$ 450], which is not enough to support a Syrian family living in Turkey.

"Rozana" Spotted  the basic expenses that the family in Turkey needs, which is known as "sufficiently limit", where the average of the house rent, water bills, electricity bills, gas, and internet reaches 1,000 T.L, and the family needs about 700 T.L for food and drink, and therefore even if the minimum wage law applied but it would not do justice to the Syrian worker, who left behind a whole family needs a financial support with no less than 1700 T.L per month.

All what Hussam wants is a sufficient salary can offer him a decent life, he said:  "13 hours a day and my salary is 1,200 T.L per month, whereas I need more than this amount for the basic expenses", he continues: "My wife is pregnant and will give birth very soon and the wages of childbirth in hospitals are very high and every time I go to the hospital they ask for our "Kimlik", besides, I cannot  understand their language."

Scientific competencies ended in factories

Who are the Syrian workers in Turkey? And what is the level of their education and their willingness to engage amid factories gatherings?

These questions are answered by a research conducted by "Rozana" included interviews with random samples of 100 workers in the industrial cities in the areas of:  Avcılar, Esenyurt, Bayrampaşa, and Zeytinburnu in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

Results show that the age of the Syrian workers ranged between 17-38 years old, which means that the average age of 27.5 years, due to the fact that most of the workers are young men fled from military service in Syria, and that the Turkish employers demand youth energies who can work under pressure.

The outcome of the survey was that the proportion of Syrian workers who hold college degrees estimated at 21%, with 43 Syrian workers hold the high school certificate.

"Salim Alrjoine" did not expect that he will end up as a worker in a factory for packaging clothes, after having studied 5 years at the university of engineering.

Salim have got the Humanitarian asylum in the United States, but the police at the airport of Atatürk prevented him from boarding the plane under the pretext of "taking advantage of his scientific experience."

Salim says to "Rozana": "What scientific experience do they want to take advantage of? I work for 12 hours in the factory!" Noting that they did not provide him a job in his field nor allowed him to travel to another country where he may live a decent life.

 

Laws without implementation

The "Turkish Ministry of Labor " issued a law to organize the Syrian labor in Turkey in 15th January 2016, particularly refugees who do not own official documents.

The law stated that the number of Syrian workers shall not exceed 10% out of the total number of workers in any Turkish Foundation, but in return, they opened the door for Syrian refugees to get the "work permit".

The law also stated that the minimum wage should be 1300 TL, and the working hours at no more than 10 hours a day with a day off every week.

However, this law was not implemented, not in terms of working hours nor minimum wage, the head of Syrian Liberal Lawyers’ Gathering "Ghazwan Quronful" said that the reason for this is that the Turkish employer is not obliged to apply this law.

Quronful adds that the Turkish employer employs Syrian refugee either to run extra hours or to give a little reward, but if he was forced to treat Syrians as Turks, he would not employ Syrians in the first place.

On this basis, Quronful criticized this law saying it is useless unless it was not implemented, and that it is capable to ensure workers’ rights, suggesting to grant Turkish employers incentives for employing Syrians in accordance with the legal frameworks, such as deducting taxes for employing Syrian workers in their factories under better conditions. He says: "Without doing this, the workers’ tragedy will go on."

Quronful explains that any law does not include the implementation, has no value, so it is necessary to give the Turkish employers incentives prompting them to employ Syrians, pointing out that the main problem is the lake of communication between Syrians and Turks, neither at the level of individuals nor at the foundations level.