15 June, 2017German radiator and cooling system manufacturer AKG Thermotechnik has dismissed union leaders from its plant in Izmir, Turkey.
Workers responded to the dismissal of union leaders by staying in the factory. Management called the police, who evicted the workers. A total of 25 workers have now been dismissed. The workers are maintaining a picket outside the plant.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Birleşik Metal-İş organized the Izmir plant in February 2017. The union was formed to contest difficult working conditions and low wages.
As required by Turkish labour law, the union received a majority certificate from the Ministry of Labour. This certifies that the union represents the majority of the 120 workers at the factory, and that the company should begin negotiations.
However, the company challenged the certificate in a court case, which is ongoing. Instead of negotiating with the union, on 25 May, the company began dismissing union leaders.
Initially, six workers were dismissed, followed by another two. The company put pressure on the workers to resign from the union, threatening their jobs if they did not comply.
The dismissed union leaders began a picket outside their factory. The picket grew, with workers calling for the reinstatement of their colleagues, and holding union meetings in lunch and tea breaks. A group of 17 workers stayed in the factory, and halted production.
Management called riot police, who forcibly evicted the workers from the factory. They were subsequently dismissed. On 15 and 16 June, the anniversary of a major uprising by workers in 1970, Birleşik Metal-İş will hold demonstrations and rallies outside the factory, calling for the workers to be reinstated, and for the company to recognize and negotiate with the union.
IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll Europe have written to AKG to demand that the company negotiate with the union, and reinstate the workers who were sacked. AKG are very dependent on two major customers, Claas Group and Liebherr International. IndustriALL has also written to both these companies, calling on them to put pressure on AKG.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:
“It has become common in Turkey for employers to use the state to crack down on unions. AKG is a German company, and used to operating in an environment where workers’ rights are respected.
“It is therefore reprehensible that they fire union leaders, and call the police on their own workforce, instead of negotiating. We call on the company to change its behaviour. IndustriALL will stand with Birleşik Metal-İş until we win justice.”