Why workers are committing suicide?
Turkey is among the top ranking countries in ‘work place murders’ and ‘suicides amongst workers’. What are the real reasons of suicides?
We hear more often in the news that misery brought on by low wages, heavy working conditions or long-term unemployment, entrapped in debt… are leading workers to commit suicide. At the beginning of this year (12 January), worker suicides were brought onto the public agenda as a result of the construction worker Sıtkı Aydın, who had been unemployed for 5 years following an accident at work and suffered from depression, tried to burn himself in front of the Assembly.
As a result, working conditions of workers were brought to the agenda in the Assembly. This was done not to make legal changes to resolve the problems of the workers but to serve as ammunition in battle of words between the opposition and the ruling party.
However, it is a reality that there is a sharp increase in suicide rates amongst workers.
Capitalist working conditions added worker suicides to ‘work place murders’ in its threat to workers lives.
Indeed, Turkey is among the top ranking countries in ‘work place murders’ and ‘suicides amongst workers’ reached extraordinary numbers too. According to an Occupational Health and Safety Council reports (İSİG); the number of workers that committed suicide were at least 15 in 2013, 25 in 2014, 59 in 2015, 90 in 2016 and 89 in 2017.
In recent interviews carried out by our colleagues, Mert Samyeli and Sinan Çavuş, workers in the city of Kocaeli drew attention to the fact that unemployment, low pay, price rises, depreciation of wages against inflation, credit card debt, and ‘mobbing practices’ in workplaces reached levels so as to push workers to depression. They said workers’ suicides are linked to these oppressions and working and living conditions that are worsening day by day.
Certainly, workers’ complaints are justified. It is not a mistake that workers connect the suicides to that of unbearable working and living conditions and not being able to find a way out of the situation that they are in. However, it is incomplete because it draws attention to only one dimension of the problem.
Because the unorganised worker is helpless against the capitalist, and whatever conditions the capitalist impose, the unorganised worker submits. Therefore, workers resort to ways and methods that do not work: working harder when they cannot make ends-meet; depending on credit cards; bending over backwards to stay on the side of the boss’ and their man.
On the other hand, the history of working class struggle in the world and in our country clearly shows that when workers are organised, when they deal with their problems as class based problems rather than personal ones, they bring together the strength in taking steps to find solutions to their working and living conditions. Moreover, workers realise that their real problem is the inability to struggle against the bosses and conditions of capitalist exploitation; they surround themselves with the feeling of solidarity and class unity; they enter into the struggle to overcome their problems rather than retreating into personal crises.
Organised workers also feel the need to fight bosses and their methods in order to change these conditions for the benefit of the workers, recognising that their problems are not related to themselves but to capitalist working conditions, that the problems are created not by themselves but by the impositions of the bosses and the class of capital they represent.
It is for this reason that the workers "diagnosis" for suicides is partly true, but these "diagnosis" cannot be expected to go beyond complaints, unless the treatment is on the agenda.
For this reason, when we talk about workers’ suicides, it is important for workers to understand that it is “possible to reduce it to a minimum” and that this can be achieved when workers are organised in unions and their own parties. Therefore, the discussion with workers about “the subject of suicide” should not be limited to poor conditions that lead to suicides. The way to prevent workers' suicides is to improve living and working conditions and the struggle to abolish capitalist exploitation; necessary steps and methods, to balance the responsibilities of workers and their unions and thus organise and fight.
(*) When we say unions, of course we are talking about battling unions. Not the unions based on acting as mediators between workers and the capitalists. Therefore, the responsibility for the solution of this problem lies with progressive workers and their battling unions.