SOHR exclusive | Daily wage workers in Idlib struggle with low wages, lost rights and indifference by relevant authorities
“We work to secure the half of our daily needs instead of incurring debts.” In these words, a displaced young man called “Mohammed” from Afrin, who is the breadwinner of his father and sister, started his complain. Mohamed, who lives with his family in Idlib countryside, confirmed that he would spend the money which he could save and then incur debts, unless he worked. He noted out that the wages are too low, despite the soaring living costs in Idlib.
The gab between the wages of daily wage workers in Idlib and their monthly expenses enlarges a day after another in light of the successive increase in the prices of food and all basic products, at a time when the daily wages remain unchanged amid lost rights of labourers and indifference by relevant authorities.
The most of daily wage workers in Idlib city and countryside work for eight to 12 hours a day for no more than 15 TL per hour. These wages are relatively high. However, workers do not find work for such wages every day. Accordingly, workers find themselves forced to incur debts or work for extra shifts to be able to secure only essential needs for their families.
Several factors have led to such low wages in Idlib city and countryside, the most prominent of which are manifested in the high rate of unemployment and large number of labourer, mostly work for greedy employers who exploit their acute need of money. Such employers offer low daily wages to workers who remain unable to secure their daily essentials.
Speaking to SOHR, a 34-year-old displaced young man lives in a camp in Deir Hassan area in the northern countryside of Idlib has noted out that workers are in need to an official institution supporting them and defend their rights in light of the obstacles and challenges they have faced. The young man says, “the most of daily wage workers do hard work, and they are exposed to injuries during work and more vulnerable to scams by employers. There must be an institution defending the labourers’ rights, such as a workers’ union with a task of setting fixed wages matching the living conditions and situation in the area. I work in any field, mainly construction work and portering. I get an average of 900 TL every month, as work is not available every day. However, I need more than 70 TL every day (nearly 2,100 TL every month) in order to be able to secure only essential needs, such as vegetables and bread. My needs are confined only to cheap food and products, where I found myself forced to forego all types of meat in order to be able to adapt with the skyrocketing prices and low wages. When a worker asks the employer for a larger wage, for example 50 or 70 TL a day, the employers fires him immediately, exploiting the large number of available workers who accept low wages because they have no other source of income. Another factor affects Idlib’s workers, which is manifested in the fact that the wages are given to workers in Turkish currency, while prices of all products in the markets are related to the US dollar.”
On the other hand, a 19-year-old displaced boy known by his initials as A. S. who lives in Armanaz in the northern countryside of Idlib has told SOHR, “a worker’s daily wage has to be 100 TL at least, so that workers can secure their families’ needs, especially with the current prohibitively high prices. Every day, the residents of Idlib city and countryside are hit with new increase in prices of essentials, mainly fuel, vegetables and bread. All workers are wondering about the reason behind the significant difference between daily wages offered in Idlib city and countryside and wages in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy militias in the northern countryside of Aleppo, noting that Turkey is the source of exchange of trade and the materials entering both regions. Ironically, the price of petrol has increased in Idilb at a time when it has decreased in Turkey, the major source of fuel in Idlib. How can workers shoulder all of these burdens; let alone the expenses of medical treatment, education, cloths, internet service, drinking water and other essentials which their families need?! Workable solution for the issue of workers must be reached.”
“The ‘Salvation Government’ does not care about workers and does not even think about their rights, as it cares only about influential figures and tycoons and how to make profits by imposing large taxes and levies on them. Workers are the most oppressed category of Syrian society, as there is nobody defending their lost rights. Every one justifies and attributes the low wages offered to workers to the lack of job opportunities and large number of workless young men, although some workers have high certificates and degrees enabling them to get appropriate job opportunities,” added A. S.
The young man has expressed his discontent over the current deteriorating situation in Idlib city and countryside in light of the tight siege imposed by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), saying, “HTS crossings prevents the access of many types of vegetables and basic products brought in from the northern countryside of Aleppo, which resulted in the increase of their prices. One example, among many, is tomatoes whose price has been risen to ten TL. All residents have started to feel fed up with the recent situation. Relevant authorities have to take an action and work on solving these crises.”
It is worth noting that successive living crises have been hitting the residents of Idlib city and countryside in light of the predominance and monopoly by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and its executive arm, the “Salvation Government,” on all vital sectors, as well as controlling prices and border crossings and imposing levies and taxes. In addition, HTS authorities neither cares about improving services and facilities nor provides decent standards of living for civilians; this, in turn, has led to the spread of many negative phenomena, such as unemployment, poverty, begging and increasing suicide cases. Meanwhile, authorities attach considerable importance to projects which many residents see them “unimportant,” such as rehabilitation of parks and roundabouts and establishing shopping malls, where the region’s authorities spend tens of thousands of USD on these projects.
Recently, prices of all basic products in Idlib city and countryside have risen to levels unaffordable by many residents, especially displaced people.
SOHR activists have reported a list of the new prices of some essential products on markets in Idlib city and countryside as follows:
- Petrol: 27 TL per litre.
- Diesel: 11 TL per litre.
- Gas cylinder: 229 TL.
- Bread: 5 TL per a six-loaf pack weighing 500 grams.
- Chicken meat: 34 TL per kilogram.
- Lamb: 110 TL per kilogram.
- Tomatoes: 9 TL per kilogram.
- Cucumber: 5 TL per kilogram.
- Courgette: 3 TL per kilogram.
- Aubergine: 4 TL per kilogram.
- Potato: 7 TL per kilogram.
- Vigna: 14 TL per kilogram.
- Beans: 13 TL per kilogram.
- Okra: 15 TL per kilogram.
- Onion: 3 TL per kilogram.
- Sugar: 16 TL per kilogram.
- Cooking oil: 33 TL per kilogram.
- Tea: From 110 TL to 170 TL per kilogram.
It is also worth noting that residents in Idlib city and countryside suffer from lack of job opportunities, despite these low wages. This is attributed to the over population in that region which host nearly three million people, mostly have been displaced from other Syrian provinces.