Jump to main content
IndustriALL logotype
Article placeholder image

Turkish unions seek justice for May Day abuse

5 May, 2008Unions challenge government's use of "state terror" and vow to raise issues of labour and human rights abuses with ILO and ECHR.

TURKEY: The Labour Union Confederation (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Unions (KESK) and the Turkish Confederation of Labour (Turk-Is) will launch complaints against Turkey with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Courts on Human Rights (ECHR) following Thursday's brutal attack on May Day demonstrators in Istanbul.

Turkish police used batons and pepper spray, tear gas and water cannons on workers gathered in front of labour union halls and crowds marching to Taksim Square where they had planned to lay carnations in memory of the 37 workers killed by police during May Day 1977. May Day celebrations in Taksim Square have been banned by the government, however other celebrations such as New Year's Eve and other demonstrations are allowed to take place there.

This year, thirty-eight people were injured and 530 were arrested. DİSK headquarters in Şişli was under blockade and was full of gas due to teargas attacks by the police who were targeting trade union leaders and workers inside the headquarters waiting to begin the demonstration. Because of the police blockade, trade unionist, members of political parties and workers (approximately 1500 people) could not leave the building for several hours. A union official said the first police attack came without warning while people were sitting outside the building waiting. By 2 pm that day, DİSK called off the march to Taksim Square due to the intense police violence.

"The government's hostility towards labour and the working class was clearly visible on May 1", DISK President Süleyman Çelebi said. "They turned İstanbul into a prison. They applied all kinds of unimaginable violence and to the workers, treating them inhumanely. Now every square, the whole of Turkey, has become Taksim. Our struggle will continue", he added.

International Metalworkers' Federation affiliate, Birlesik, is a member of DİSK and participated and supported May Day labour activities in Turkey. The IMF received reports that approximately 150 of those arrested were Birlesik and DİSK members.