28 July, 2008
The ICEM lodged a stern protest with the government of Turkey following excessive police force to quell a peaceful protest by ICEM affiliate Belediye-İş, the Municipal and General Workers’ Union. Due to stalled negotiations on behalf of 10,000 union members at different segments of the Istanbul Metropolitan Muncipality, the union issued a 60-day strike notice in mid-July.
On 17 July, 2,000 Belediye-İş members, along with officials of the union, marched to an administrative building of the municipality to hang a banner announcing their legal strike. They were immediately repelled by police, using pepper spray and pressurized water cannons.
The police force was a reminder of the force used on 1 May this year when trade unionists attempted to lay flowers at Istanbul’s Taksim Square in memorial to the 37 comrades killed there by government forces on 1 May 1977.
Police Water Cannons Impede Peaceful Belediye-İş March on 17 July
“The attitude taken by police against peaceful demonstrators reinforces the impression and opinion worldwide on your government’s pursuit against (workers’ rights),” wrote ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“Although Turkey has ratified ILO Conventions 87 and 98, we understand that neither in law or in daily life can these standards be freely exercised.”
The strike notice was issued because the Istanbul Metropolitan Muncipality has closed the door on negotiations after offering only an 8% increase. Belediye-İş is seeking a 40% increase. According to the union, daily consumer costs have rapidly escalated beyond the high inflation rate in Turkey, with water and transportation increases nearing the 35% mark.