Call for Support for Workers of the Turkish company “Kayi Construction”

We are calling for international support for the workers of Turkish company “Kayi Construction” that was building stadium in Kaunas, Lithuania. For three weeks of January 2020 the workers have been on strike because the company has not paid wages for 9 months.  May 1st union is representing the workers in Lithuania and gathering financial support for the workers and their families in Turkey.  We ask you to contribute and share the information about the grave violations of workers rights by the turkish company.

In 2018, a Turkish construction company “Kayi Construction” won the public tender announced by Kaunas municipality to conduct the construction works of a football stadium. On March 2019, the company has started the construction and brought around 60 workers from Turkey. The workers signed double contracts with the Turkish “Kayi construction”, as well as with the Lithuanian subsidiary of the company.

In the middle of December 2019, the first protests of workers erupted – 5 workers announced to the media that they had not been paid their salaries and that the company owes each of them from 6 to 7 thousand euros. However, these workers soon got their salaries and were sent back to Turkey. Media then announced that the problems were solved and the construction carried on.

In 2017 “Kayi construction” received awards from Recep Tayyir Erdogan. The company is a major contractor from the Turkish state as well conducts projects in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Iraq and Russia.

On December 30th, the May 1st Labor Union, an independent Lithuanian labor union, received a call for assistance from other Turkish workers of the “Kayi Construction”. As it later turned out, the company has not been paying salaries for the other 52 workers. According to the workers, the company owes from 7 to 12 thousand euros to each worker. Apart from the salaries, there is strong evidence that the company violated  numerous other rights of the workers: the workers have not received a copy of their contracts, their monthly working hours exceeded more than double the maximum rate allowed by Lithuanian labor law – they were working from 12 to 14 hours every day, having only 1 day off in three weeks. Also, the manager of the company had taken the passports of the workers, and returned them back only when the protests started.

On 31st of December the workers announced a hunger strike that lasted for a week. Together with the May 1st union, the workers were demanding responsibility from the employer and Kaunas municipality, as the project was financed by the public funds. However, Kaunas municipality did not express support for the workers, but at least was forced to quit the contract with “Kayi construction” and announce a new tender. On January 11th a solidarity protest was organised that was attended by other Lithuanian labor unions. The unions came to express solidarity not only with striking workers in Kaunas, but as well with their colleagues in Algeria – here, “Kayi construction” has left 150 workers without wages. 

The strike and the protest attracted a lot of attention from Lithuanian media and politicians. On 13th the workers participated in a Parliamentary meeting where they explained the situation with the contractor.  However, the representatives of the Turkish company have made it clear that they will not pay the promised wages to the workers – offering only a meagre sum of 400 euros in exchange of the workers leaving Lithuania and bringing the matters to the Turkish courts.

As “Kayi construction” lost the contract with Kaunas municipality, the company started forcing the workers to leave the containers where they have been living as well as stopped providing food. On January 17th workers left Lithuania and came back to their families in Turkey.

May 1st union will continue fighting for the salaries in courts, but it can take up until 1 year until the final verdict.  At the moment the workers are in need of financial support as the company has only been paying its workers a monthly subsistence allowance of around 200 euros. The workers have shown fierce courage and dedication to fight for their rights and we want to show them, that they are not alone. We ask you to help us spread the information and help us gather the financial support.

You can transfer your donation to:

Bank: Luminor|DNB; 

SWIFT: AGBLLT2X 

Account number: LT304010051005202548 

Receiver: Gegužės 1-osios profesinė sąjunga (May 1st Labour Union)

Purpose: support for “Kayi construction” workers

As well, you can transfer the donation through PayPal: g1ps@g1ps.lt