3 September, 2021When workers at Salcomp Turkey, business partner of one of the world’s leading smart phone producers, Xiaomi, exercised their fundamental right to join a trade union, they faced intimidation, threats and dismissals.
Salcomp produces smart phones for Chinese Xiaomi, the second largest smartphone maker in the world. Salcomp was acquired by Chinese Lingyi ITech in 2019, but is headquartered in Finland with a production site in Turkey. There are around 800 workers on the site in Istanbul, with plans to increase the workforce to 2,000.
Working conditions at the Salcomp Turkey plant in Istanbul are untenable. During the pandemic, workers were forced to work eleven hours per day, although their contracts say eight hours. Overtime was imposed without workers’ consent and only partly paid. Breaks could only be taken at the managers’ discretion and since there was no canteen, workers had to eat in containers for a while. Many workers have been infected with Corona.
As a large part of the workers decided to join IndustriALL affiliate, Turkish Metalworkers’ Union (Türk Metal), Salcomp management launched a union busting campaign. Workers were intimidated, threatened and nine union members were dismissed, allegedly over a decline in performance.
However, it is clear to the workers and the union that the dismissals were done to scare off others from joining Türk Metal.
Salcomp management summoned workers to say that “union members have to resign from their affiliation with Türk Metal”, and that “the company will make the necessary improvements in their wages and working conditions”.
Management surrounded the factory with wire mesh to prevent any demonstrations. Workers are banned from using use their mobile phones, cutting off their communication with other workers.
Although the Turkish constitution rules that “workers have the right to form and join a union of their choice, and no one should be forced to withdraw from membership”, the reality is very different.
Earlier this year, company management proposed to provide shelters for workers to sleep in, to save time on transport. Dormitories in the workplace is a well-known concept for workers in Turkey.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan says:
“It is wholly unacceptable to treat workers like this in the 21st century with low wages, bad working conditions and union busting union. We urge Salcomp to immediately reinstate the dismissed union members and engage in good faith negotiations with Türk Metal, and we urge Xiaomi to assume its responsibilities and put an end to the exploitation.
"Chinese companies must learn to treat workers with dignity."
Xiaomi is a multinational electronics company founded in April 2010 and headquartered in Beijing. Xiaomi makes a wide range of electronics products, such as smartphones, laptops, home appliances, and consumer electronics.