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Turkish Glass Workers Reach Collective Agreement After Strike Ban

11 September, 2014Members of IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate Kristal-Is went on strike on 20 June 2014 over the failure of sector-wide negotiations in the glass industry. The Turkish Government postponed, in reality banned, the strike eight days after it was launched.

According to Turkish legislation, “a lawful strike or lock-out that has been called or commenced may be suspended by the Council of Ministers for 60 days with a decree if it is prejudicial to public health or national security. The suspension shall come into force on the date of publication of the decree“.

The legislation further reads “if an agreement is not reached before the expiry date of the suspension period, the High Board of Arbitration settles the dispute upon the application of either party within six working days. Otherwise, the competence of the workers’ trade union shall be void”. It is a well-known fact that the High Arbitration Board never rules in favour of union demands because it is dominated by government and employers’ representatives. This is why Kristal-Is has pursued a strategy to conclude the agreement without going to compulsory arbitration.

In the meantime, Kristal-Is has applied to the State Council for nullification of the Government’s Decree with a demand of suspension of its execution for being able to continue to strike. However surprisingly the State Council has refused this demand on the contrary to its earlier jurisprudence on the basis of economic arguments rather than protecting fundamental rights. In addition to this, Kristal-Is has filed a complaint against Turkish Government at the ILO over violation of the right of collective bargaining, and IndustriALL Global Union supported it. In the meantime, Kristal-Is and its members engaged in a series of nationwide actions.

Before the sixty-day suspension period was about to be over, Kristal-Is has organized a secret-ballot vote on 26 August with its members over the last offer made by the employers at the onoging negotiations. On the basis of the results and potential risk that the collective agreement be concluded by the High Arbitration Committee, Kristal-Is has decided to sign.

The new agreement has brought important achievements to the union members. With the new deal, wages were increased with an average of 14% and a substantial improvement has been made for lower-paid categories. Bonuses and other social payments were augmented by between 10% and 49%.

The agreement covers 5800 glass workers in ten factories of Sisecam group, namely Trakya Cam, Trakya Mersin, Trakya Yenişehir, Trakya Otocam, Cam Elyaf, Paşabahçe Eskişehir, Paşabahçe Mersin, Paşabahçe Kırklareli, Anadolu Cam Mersin and Anadolu Cam Yenişehir.

Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL stated:

IndustriALL Global Union salutes and congratulates Kristal-Is over its determination for better wages and working conditions during this difficult period. Our right to strike is under threat worldwide. The strike ban in the Turkish glass industry is a clear example of how this fundamental right is critical for us since the strike is a vital instrument for workers in betterment and advancement of their rights and interests.