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Turkey: Time for global solidarity with metalworkers’ mass strike

29 January, 2015IndustriALL Global Union is mobilizing support for its affiliated union Birlesik Metal-Is in the sector-wide strike launched today, 29 January. The strike covers some 40 workplaces with 15,000 workers in Turkey’s metal industry.

Members of Birlesik Metal-Is voted to strike in rejection of an offered three-year collective agreement with the metal employers association MESS.

Priority demands of the strike include:

  • Increasing the sector’s low salaries,
  • Reducing the wide gap in pay between different job categories and seniority levels,
  • And keeping the length of the agreement at two years instead of three.

IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan stated:

The metal industry in Turkey can and must pay higher wages. We staunchly support our Birlesik sisters and brothers in their strong stand for fair and dignified salaries.

The massive strike was kicked off at 9am this morning with loud and colourful marches, mobilizations, and pickets. Birlesik has divided the companies they organize into two groups; the strike began today at half of them, with workers at the second group to stop work on 19 February.

Five of the affected 40 companies organized by Birlesik attempted to manipulate the labour law by pressuring mainly white-collar employees to call for a workplace strike ballot at eight factories. All five strike ballots, run by the Labour Ministry, resoundingly supported the strike.

The majority of the companies are international suppliers headquartered in Germany, France, US, Holland, Japan and elsewhere. The companies produce electrical, heating, and mechanical systems. IndustriALL is contacting those multinationals to call on them to meet with the union and discuss workers’ demands in good faith.

Another common anti-union practice of employers in Turkey when their staff votes to strike is to request the government to postpone the strike by 60 days over so-called arguments about “public health” and “general security”. This bad labour law allows for a strike to be postponed if it risks public safety or security, and effectively bans the strike entirely.

All staff at Birlesik are going unpaid during the strike so that full resources can be committed to the action. IndustriALL Global Union will join the strike picket next week.

Send your message of solidarity to the striking Birlesik members from this page.