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Turkish glass workers win large increase after unprecedented action

12 June, 2017Glass workers at Şişecam factories in Turkey have signed a collective agreement that includes a good wage increase after staging work-ins at nine factories.

Almost six thousand members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Kristal-İş have won a significant victory after staging a remarkable work-in at nine Şişecam glass factories across the country.

The union announced an intention to strike on 24 May, after failing to agree the wage offer from their employer. To support the employer, the Turkish government banned the strike, citing national security concerns.

The workers resolved to stay in their factories until their demands were met. They maintained their three daily shifts, and at the end of the shift, pitched tents on the factory grounds or slept in the canteen. They were supported by their families, who brought them food and helped to rally a huge amount of community support, with local politicians, religious leaders and small business people showing support.

IndustriALL affiliates sent messages of support and solidarity to the workers, and IndustriALL wrote to the company, urging them to refrain from intimidation and harassment, and negotiate with the workers.

After thirteen days of action, the company agreed to meet with workers’ representatives. After three rounds of negotiation, a comprehensive two year collective bargaining agreement was signed between the union and the employer on 8 June.

The agreement includes shift bonuses for night work, holiday, travel and clothing allowance, and a significant wage increase. Low paid workers got the highest increase, with the average being 16.3 per cent.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“I am very impressed with the courage and determination of the glass workers, which resulted in this impressive victory. Even in countries like Turkey, where workers’ rights to organize are restricted, if we are united and put up a strong fight, we can win.

“Şişecam are a very successful multinational who recently increased their profits by 164 per cent. They can afford to pay a decent wage.”

In a statement announcing the result, the union said:

“At the point where the contract negotiations were blocked, the employer was confronted with the strong will of the glass workers, and the contract was concluded.

“We thank all of our members.”

One of the factory workers said:

“We waited in our factory for 13 days, we didn't go home, we didn't see our children. The boss has seen our union and our determination.

“Now we understand that there is no power to stand against us if we have a conscious and organized struggle. I earned my win, but if we were even better organized, we'd have more rights.”