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Labor unions issue joint statement drawing attention to burden of economic crisis

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Five labor unions said in a joint statement on Wednesday that the Turkish people are facing financial difficulties and are unable to lead a dignified life due to the worsening economic crisis in Turkey, in particular because of the rising prices.

The statement, titled “We can’t make ends meet, we want to live a humane life!” was announced at a press conference by representatives from the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions, the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects Chambers (TMMOB), the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and the Turkish Dental Association (TDB).

“The continuous price hikes have exhausted the workers, laborers, retirees and women. In our country, surviving, let alone leading a humane life, is becoming more difficult every day,” the unions said.

Following the May elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed Mehmet Şimşek as the finance minister. Şimşek had been highly regarded by financial markets during his previous tenure as finance minister and later as deputy prime minister from 2009 to 2018.

The appointment was made to address Turkey’s cost-of-living crisis and other challenges, signaling that the newly elected government would revert to more orthodox economic policies after years of unorthodox moves that resulted in runaway inflation and the lira sinking to record lows.

Şimşek last month said in a circular sent to all public agencies that they should re-evaluate all expenditures, adding that cost-saving measures will be strictly enforced to ensure an effective, economical and efficient use of public resources.

“The policy implemented to fill the treasury, which the government has depleted, is crushing us, the workers, … public servants, … devaluing our labor day by day. … The policies that condemn the overwhelming majority of the people to poverty, hunger, unemployment, debt and insecurity are not only a burden on us but also on Turkey. We no longer have the strength to bear this burden!” the unions said.

They underlined that the increases, especially in essential consumer goods, must be rolled back and that basic wages should be raised above the poverty line and updated every three months according to the increase in the poverty line, with an additional share of economic growth added every quarter as a welfare bonus.

During the opening speech of the press conference, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, a famous human rights activist and head of the TTB, stated that the country is being scorched by price hikes, and in response to this, they have come together as five labor organizations to say, “Let those who caused the crisis pay its cost.”

Dentist Emel Eroğlu, general secretary of TDB, also emphasized that the ongoing economic crisis is a result of a “political choice,” indicating that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has favored capital over those who rely on labor. Eroğlu also emphasized the importance of a struggle centered around labor.

Over the past several years Turkey has been suffering from a deteriorating economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. President Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country where dissent is suppressed and opponents are jailed on politically motivated charges.

The Turkish lira was being traded at 26.9 against the dollar on Thursday morning. It lost around 30 percent of its value since late May.

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