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Bekaert İzmit Steel Kord workers defy repression

6 October, 2023IndustriALL Global Union and IndustriAll Europe stand shoulder to shoulder with the workers and their union at the Bekaert İzmit Steel Kord factory in Turkey, who are facing fierce repression for legitimately demanding wage increases to compensate for high inflation.

Management at the Bekaert İzmit Steel Kord factory in Turkey came down hard on the workers and their union when the workers staged a protest after negotiations for a pay rise to compensate for inflation failed.

This week, the company sacked the chief shop steward (a board member of the Kocaeli regional branch of Birleşik Metal İş), prompting workers to refuse leaving the factory during the day shift. Workers arriving for the night shift were subsequently prevented from entering the premises, thus disrupting Bekaert's production. Union members still inside the factory are being denied access to food.

Faced with soaring inflation and eroding wages, the workers were rightly demanding additional pay rises to combat growing impoverishment and the rising cost of living. Despite their peaceful attempts to voice their concerns, the union representative was dismissed for shouting slogans, which the workers found unacceptable.

In a joint letter, IndustriALL Global Union and industriALL Europe condemn in the strongest possible terms the unfair dismissal of the union representative and call for his immediate reinstatement, as well as calling on management to let workers come into the factory to restart production.

“The company’s behaviour is in blatant violation of national labour law and international core labour standards, including ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, and Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.

“It is imperative that Bekaert act in full accord with national law and international labour standards and thus engage in good faith negotiations with Birleşik Metal İş and immediately reinstate the chief union representative.”

A struggle for rights

The Bekaert İzmit Steel Kord factory has been a battlefield for workers' rights for some time, with the union facing constant repression from management.

Last winter, the company secured the support of the Turkish government, with a decree from President Erdogan effectively banning strikes. The international trade union community stood in solidarity with the workers, condemning the ban and demanding justice.

Despite these challenges, the union won a remarkable victory, securing an 84 per cent pay rise for its members.

Defying repression

The workers at Bekaert İzmit Steel Kord remain steadfast. They continue their struggle and demand the immediate reinstatement of their dismissed representative and the respect of their fundamental rights.

The workers point out the absurdity of the situation: in 2023, a European company with Belgian capital resorts to methods reminiscent of the 18th century and tries to intimidate its workers through hunger and repression. The workers make it clear that such archaic tactics will not break their spirit or deter them from their cause.