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Victory for Kristal-İş in Turkish Glass Dispute

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14 August, 2005ICEM New release No. 16/2004

T he nearly two-year-long labour dispute between ICEM affiliate and leading Turkish glass producer Sisecam Group ended this week.

A signed agreement between the company and Turkey's dominant glass workers' union reinstates 350 union members sacked at a plant in Eskisehir, grants pay increases for both 2003 and 2004 to workers, and gives Kristal-İş full recognition rights at most Sisecam glass factories, the underlying principle in the lengthy dispute.

The accord comes after both the ICEM and the European Mining, Chemical, Energy Workers' Federation (EMCEF) brought full attention to the dispute both globally and within the European community. It also came following the Turkish government twice prohibiting Kristal-İş from mounting a strike in the country's glass sector despite a Supreme Court ruling that such a strike was lawful.

The main points to the settlement:

· Sisecam agreed to withdraw its legal obstacles to recognizing Kristal-İş in some 13 of 15 glass factories that employ 5,000 workers;

· The two parties agreed that social dialogue and goodwill will now become the norm for solutions to future problems;

· The 350 union activists who were sacked last September at a Pasabahce plant in Eskisehir following some 700 workers and contractors becoming Kristal-İş members will be reinstated;

· A shop steward who was also fired for his union activities will be reinstated;

· In line with Turkey’s consumer price index, glass workers will receive a retroactive pay increase of 14% for the first half of 2003, 10% for the second half, and 12% for 2004.

"The ICEM applauds the determination and endurance of Kristal-İş members and their leaders in the most successful end result of this dispute," stated ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs. "We are delighted to have played a role, but the credit truly goes to Turkey's glass workers and their union for mobilizing and persevering in the face of nothing less than an orchestrated union-busting effort."

In an era when more and more companies use contractors to avoid unionization, Higgs commended Kristal-İş for organising into its ranks contract workers at the Eskisehir plant.

Kristal-İş President Mustafa Bagceci and Sisecam CEO Dogan Arikan released a joint communiqué in which they promised to start a new phase of social dialogue in labour relations. "This settlement means a new starting point between Kristal-İş and Sisecam," stated Bagceci. "We have decided to look ahead instead of at the past." Bagceci added that international initiatives played a vital role in reaching the agreement and expressed appreciation to ICEM and EMCEF for strong support and solidarity.