Prominent trade union supporter, Meryem Bicakci (3rd left), is the latest trade unionist to be fired by Hugo Boss in Izmir. Photo: Facebook/Meryem Bicakci

Hugo Boss continues to treat Turkish workers like garbage

07.04.2016

In March, Hugo Boss fired Meryem Bicakci because she supports the Teksif trade union organizing at her factory. It is another sacking in a long-running union-busting campaign by the luxury fashion label at its largest production facility in Izmir, Turkey.

The German-based brand has also increased pressure on two other leading union members, Fikri Mutlu and Murat Akgün. The objective is clear: frighten workers away from joining a union.

The Hugo Boss corporate management has told IndustriALL, its affiliate Teksif and multiple third parties that it will remain neutral in the Teksif organizing drive in Izmir. But at the same time intimidation, threats, harassment and dismissals continue against workers who support the union.

IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“IndustriALL Global Union condemns in the strongest possible terms the concerted union busting attack by the Hugo Boss management in Izmir, Turkey. The latest sacking of Meryem Bicakci, a well-known trade union supporter inside the factory, is yet further evidence that Izmir management’s union busting policy has not changed. Corporate Hugo Boss management in Metzingen is either supportive of, or at least unwilling to stop, the severe daily violations of labour rights at its largest production facility.”

As was the case with Suleyman Budak and Abdullah Satan who were sacked late 2015 for supporting the Teksif trade union, IndustriALL alerted Hugo Boss specifically about groundless allegations made by local management against Meryem Bicakci in face-to-face meetings in Metzingen, Geneva and in writing throughout 2015.

Izmir management was trying to scare these three union supporters into stopping their union activities. When this failed the three were sacked on baseless charges to send a message to the rest of the workforce that supporting the union will get you sacked.

The dismissals were made by Izmir management in the knowledge that Abdullah, Suleyman and Meryam would take their case of unfair dismissal due to union activities to court and ultimately win. Management prefers to be found guilty in the Turkish courts than to allow its workers to freely support a union of their choosing.

Local labour courts and the Court of Appeals, has in the recent past ruled that the twenty workers who were dismissed by Hugo Boss must be reinstated as their employment contracts were terminated because they had joined the union.

The highly critical FLA report published in January 2016 highlights a long list of serious violations of Turkish Law, the FLA code of conduct and Hugo Boss’s own code of conduct at the Hugo Boss plant in Izmir.

While the violations are serious relating to health and safety, contracts, hiring practices, disciplinary practices, working hours, and salaries, the findings regarding industrial relations reconfirm our complaints of union busting, intimidation, and sackings by the Izmir management.

As Hugo Boss is a paying member of the FLA, these public findings add considerable weight to the findings made over the past years by IndustriALL Global Union, Teksif, the local Turkish courts and the Appeals Court.  

Only Teksif is organizing the Hugo Boss workers in Izmir but Hugo Boss says it needs to remain neutral between multiple unions in an attempt to dilute Teksif’s demand for recognition and bargaining rights.

Another misinformation put out by Hugo Boss is that it is in dialogue with IndustriALL. Closed door talks on two occasions and email correspondence does not equate to dialogue. There has never been dialogue because Hugo Boss has refused to act upon any of IndustriALL’s demands:

  1. Stopping the intimidation and threats inside the factory against workers joining the union;
  2. Reinstating workers sacked for joining the union (remedy);
  3. Organizing a meeting inside the factory with IndustriALL, Teksif, and the sacked workers in order to plan reinstatements and roadmap to mature industrial relations;
  4. Agreeing on a joint memorandum between Hugo Boss and IndustriALL on freedom of association to be jointly communicated by IndustriALL and Hugo Boss through town hall meetings with the workforce;
  5. Providing IndustriALL with access to the workplace.