The last few days have seen violent clashes between the police and dismissed workers, peacefully protesting to get their jobs back and the right to organize at car manufacturer Renault’s Turkish plant Oyak in the city of Bursa.
Following an agreement made between IndustriALL Global Union, its Turkish affiliate Birlesik Metal-Is, representing the overwhelming majority of workers at the Oyak plant, and Renault management on 4 February, workers at the plant were to hold elections on worker representation on 29 February.
The agreement, which also includes the composition and duties of a Social Dialogue Committee (SDC), was the result of discussions on employee representation and the right to hold elections.
In a provocative move, Renault management cancelled the elections just days before they were scheduled to take place, hiding behind the argument of having pressure from Turkey’s Ministry of Labour and Social Security who had labeled the elections illegal. In addition, the car giant immediately dismissed ten workers, including two spokespersons.
IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina says that this is a direct show of disrespect for the workers and their representative union:
“It is a very provocative move as there are no provisions in the Turkish legislation preventing elections at workplace.”
Escalating the conflict, Oyak plant management has continued to fire workers; more than 60 people have lost their jobs and an additional 100 have been asked to leave with severance packages.
Local factory management has engaged police to intervene against the peaceful protestors, intimidating workers at their homes and as they are coming on and off their shifts. According to reports, on 2 March, police arrested 21 workers as the night shift ended
“Violence against workers can never be accepted and must stop immediately. The Turkish government fails again when it comes to exercising fundamental rights.”
“We urgently call on Renault to implement the agreements we jointly made in the last months, to reinstate the dismissed workers and to organize free elections at the Oyak plant in with their commitments.”
IndustriALL has a global framework agreement (GFA) with Renault Group, consolidating the company’s commitments to ILO’s labour standards, including freedom of association and neutrality, and contains a number of major improvements in particular concerning skills, training, health and safety, and diversity.
“The recent events and Renault’s lack of action are in direct contradiction to the GFA and we call on them to honour the agreement. If the situation continues as today, there will be wider effects for Renault, dismantling a 20-year constructive social dialogue at an international level.”