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Solidarity with Bekaert workers in Turkey

22 December, 2022European works council representatives, IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll Europe attended a solidarity event and press conference with Bekaert workers in Turkey which was organized by joint affiliate Birleşik Metal İş. The workers are on strike and an illegal ban has been placed on the strike. Solidarity messages were also expressed online by workers’ representatives from Belgium, France, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

400 striking workers stood in front of the Bekaert factory in Izmit. Strike action started 10 days ago following failed negotiations towards a new collective bargaining agreement. 

Over the last years, Turkey has faced massive inflation and consequently a huge decline in workers’ purchasing power. Wages are not enough for workers to make ends meet.

Bekaert has refused to give a fair wage increase. Workers asked for an increase that compensates the inflation and reflects the good financial results that have been made by workers in the Turkish Bekaert company.

The government decree refers to ‘national security’ as reason to ban the strike, although the sector has no connection to anything relating to national security. Birlesik Metal-Is, the representative trade union in Bekaert Izmit and workers rejected this ban and continued their strike.

The president of Birlesik Metal-Is, Adnan Serdaroglu, said:

“The only way for workers to demonstrate their rights is for them to strike. This ban is illegal and therefore we stand here today, in front of the Bekaert factory, to demand that our voices are heard and our rights are respected. 
“We want to warn Bekaert management that the international management of the company must intervene to solve this problem and grant workers their basic rights.
The general manager of the factory has sent workers emails, threatening to dismiss them for their legitimate strike action and threatening them with damage costs which they would have to pay out of their own pockets.”

General secretary of industriAll Europe, Luc Triangle, told the Bekaert workers:

“You have our full support and solidarity. What Bekaert is doing in Turkey is totally unacceptable. We all know that inflation is skyrocketing in Turkey, and you deserve a good collective bargaining agreement. It’s a sign of weak management, if management must hide behind the Erdogan regime to block a strike. Employers need to negotiate, and you have the right to strike! The Bekaert group needs to take its social responsibility seriously, not only in Belgium but everywhere else, including Turkey. Together will be following this case closely and will widely publish the proceedings if this issue is not resolved fast. The new collective agreement must be signed as soon as possible. We are with you in this fight!”

IndustriALL Global Union asistant general secretary Kemal Özkan added:

“The right to strike is an essential part of a democratic society and a fundamental social and economic right. Its recognition and protection must be the rule and any restriction might be the exception. Therefore, the Turkish legislation is in a contradiction of these internationally recognized standards. As a matter of fact, the committee of freedom of association of international labour organization already expressed its regrets several times on the systemic practices of the Turkish government in banning the strikes on grounds of national security. This is completely unacceptable as far as trade unions are concerned and it brings us to a situation in Turkey where the right to strike is not in place practically. We urge the central and local management of Bekaert not to hide behind the presidential decree but instead recognise the right to strike and sit down with the union representatives of Birleşik Metal İş for a good faith bargaining without any delay.
Our struggle will continue until justice arrives on the plant.”