In an arti­cle pub­lished by Sol Gazete­si, Ayçin Özok­tay doc­u­ments the exploita­tion of dai­ly domes­tic ser­vice employ­ees, now an inte­gral part of the ser­vice indus­try which func­tions like oth­er indus­tri­al sec­tors on a cap­i­tal­ist mech­a­nism that rests on the exploita­tion of a work force « with no secu­ri­ty » , « flex­i­ble » and « indexed on the basis of performance ».

In this Kedis­tan arti­cle you will find Ayçin’s report, excerpts of an inter­view she con­duct­ed with Feyza, a clean­ing woman, and our reflections.

First, let’s note that in Turkey, day labor­ers work­ing in domes­tic clean­ing are most­ly women, « of course ».

Ayçin Özok­tay groups the work meth­ods into three large families :
Indi­vid­ual work : women who work on an indi­vid­ual basis and who usu­al­ly find their employ­ers through acquain­tances. They work as « dailies ». The work is at the sur­vival lev­el for per­sons jeop­ar­dized by cap­i­tal­ism and who exert dai­ly efforts in find­ing alter­na­tive rev­enue sources.
Clean­ing firms : With the gen­er­al­ized arrival of these firms as go-betweens for employ­ers and indi­vid­ual clean­ing women, these last become pro­le­tar­i­ans. For the firms col­lect com­mis­sions on their dai­ly wages and the clean­ing women thus become work­ers sup­ply­ing a prof­it for the cap­i­tal invest­ed by these firms.
“Vir­tu­al firms » : These are the most recent entries on the mar­ket, they have devel­oped rapid­ly, « orga­niz­ing » ser­vices via social media networks.

The work con­di­tions in them­selves are not very dif­fer­ent in these three major groups. We’ll look more close­ly at the « vir­tu­al firms » because Feyza works at “Armut Tem­i­z­lik”, or rather « via » this firm which oper­ates on social networks.

This firm offers its “ser­vices” in Ankara, Istan­bul and Izmir. Feyza spec­i­fies that she applied to this firm when she found her­self unem­ployed and had to pay her rent. She explains she was hired fol­low­ing a video­con­fer­ence inter­view on What­sApp. She has no insur­ance against work-relat­ed acci­dents and she is not hired with a con­tract stip­u­lat­ing who is the own­er of the home she must care for, and who « may acquire an acci­dent insur­ance, if they so wish ». Pay­ment is on an hourly basis, 15 Turk­ish lira per hour for the first hire, the equiv­a­lent of 3,69€ at the cur­rent rate of exchange. And no doubt, « the first time » she is con­sid­ered « on tri­al » by the firm. Start­ing with the sec­ond job, pay­ment goes up 17 Turk­ish lira (4,18€).

Feyza : House­clean­ing is not sim­ple. You need finesse for the win­dows, for exam­ple. Some cus­tomers fol­low you step by step with a rag in their hand and angri­ly clean up behind you, say­ing « you’re not clean­ing well ». You feel pres­sured con­stant­ly. If you get low points on your first jobs, they don’t hire you any­more. After­wards, there’s a quo­ta, you must obtain three out of five points. If you fall under three, they no longer hire you. Each clean­ing job becomes a source of stress. In each house you have to say « please, could you give me a good score, or else I won’t be hired again and I need to work. »

The performance-based system, the threat of unemployment

The sys­tem in which Feyza finds her­self is thus a « per­for­mance-based » one. Per­for­mance is a sys­tem that rests on reward and pun­ish­ment in order to increase pro­duc­tion. Judg­ing and clas­si­fy­ing the work­er on social medias through this point sys­tem forces the work­ers to remain silent even when faced with dif­fi­cul­ties, abuse and injustice.

Unem­ploy­ment, one of capitalism’s most fear­some weapons, with the added com­pe­ti­tion thrown into the game, traps the work­ers in the clean­ing sec­tor into the per­for­mance system.

Work­ing more to gain more ? Uberisation…

Who’s the boss, nobody knows

Anoth­er prob­lem attracts imme­di­ate atten­tion, that of the fuzzi­ness sur­round­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tive. The fact work­ers enter a « pro­duc­tion » process through hir­ing via social net­works deprives them of all con­tact with their col­leagues (their com­peti­tors, in fact) and they can­not know who are real­ly their « bosses ».

Feyza : “When you start to work, you con­tact the per­son who calls you for the job. But you don’t know who you’re talk­ing to. It’s either an SMS with a num­ber or a voice, at best. You don’t know where he/she lives, you don’t know who he/she is, what kind of per­son he/she is. It may be some­one you come across con­stant­ly but you don’t know, it’s a mys­tery… The call­ing num­bers or the ones you call belong to the firm, you have noth­ing but the sms or the voic­es. You don’t even know the oth­er peo­ple who work with Armut Tem­i­z­lik in your town. In one word, the sys­tem is « Perfect » !

No colleagues means solitude

As Feyza says, in this type of arrange­ment designed to avoid con­tact between boss­es and employ­ees, con­tact with oth­er employ­ees is also care­ful­ly avoid­ed. Employ­ees can­not exchange infor­ma­tion, strength­en each oth­er, orga­nize, act togeth­er. Their pro­fes­sion­al life is stuck in indi­vid­ual work and the score they receive for it. Con­se­quent­ly, this well-oiled exploita­tion mech­a­nism oper­ates with­out a sin­gle grain of sand block­ing the wheel. No meet­ings, no protests, forced silence and acceptance.

A plain bandage for a wound and 9 stitches !

Twen­ty days ago, Feyza had a work-relat­ed acci­dent. The wound on her leg required nine stitch­es. Accord­ing­ly, she lost twen­ty days of work.
Feyza : “In any event, if you’re a « dai­ly » the Labor Law con­sid­ers you’re non-exis­tent. You have no insur­ance and your client doesn’t insure you against « work relat­ed acci­dents ». So besides the fear of unem­ploy­ment, you have the fear of an acci­dent, of being hand­i­capped or even of dying… When the own­er (the client) saw my leg, she said « I’ll give you a ban­dage and you go on work­ing ». What she con­sid­ered a ban­dage was good enough for required nine stitch­es ! I called the per­son who had giv­en me the job at Armut Tem­i­z­lik but I nev­er man­aged to reach him. Five hours went by…You don’t even know if this per­son is in the same town as you are in any case. When I final­ly received a return call, all I got were wish­es for a speedy recov­ery and words spo­ken for form’s sake : « If you need any­thing, let us know »…There were x‑rays, stitch­es but after that sen­tence received over the phone at the hos­pi­tal, no one asked about me. The client’s hus­band called me once to wish me a speedy recov­ery. And that was it. »

As long as capitalism will exist, this exploitation will continue and find other modalities

Feyza’s tes­ti­mo­ny is but one exam­ple among mil­lions of oth­ers of the sit­u­a­tions expe­ri­enced by work­ers, no mat­ter the sec­tor in which they work…

Women and men who sell their work force in order to sur­vive and live will con­tin­ue to be exploit­ed. For cap­i­tal­ism, noth­ing mat­ters oth­er than prof­it. Nei­ther secu­ri­ty at work, nor the right to health, nor pover­ty and mis­ery, nor the lives of mil­lions of human beings.

Yes, all this is hap­pen­ing in Erdoğan’s Turkey… The “ori­en­tal­ist” vision still hold­ing sway in Europe masks the fact that, behind the neo-Ottoman facade of the AKP regime, what is tru­ly in pow­er is neo-lib­er­al cap­i­tal­ism. In the reign­ing oli­garchy as well as in the wealthy social class­es who give them­selves Kemal­ist airs with a touch of oppo­si­tion, class strug­gle is not absent from the shores of the Bospho­rus or of Anatolia.

There also, the new modes of exploita­tion are spread­ing with the vir­tu­al and with the indi­vid­u­al­iza­tion of work­ers, trans­formed into com­pet­ing « self-exploiters ».

En français “Ubéri­sa­tion “à la tur­ca” : l’exploitation, c’est du pro­pre !” Cliquez pour lire

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