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Turkish Parliament adopts new anti-union legislation

25 October, 2012IndustriALL Global Union joins with the international labour movement in calling for a Presidential veto on anti-union legislation passed by the Turkish Parliament on 18 October.

In spite of a long-standing campaign conducted by the global and national trade union movement, the Turkish Parliament adopted new anti-union legislation without any improvement to fundamental rights. The new act is still pending final approval by the President of the Republic, and global unions, including IndustriALL Global Union, are joining Turkish trade unions in seeking a Presidential veto.

The new law, called “Trade Unions and Collective Agreement Act”, keeps the main structure of the current individual and industrial relations’ system.

National sectoral thresholds are kept in the process of union certification for collective bargaining. According to the current system, if a union wants to be bargaining party for a local level collective agreement, it must organize 10 per cent of the total national workforce in the industry where the union concerned operates. Even though the threshold is reduced to 3 per cent, a number of unions will lose competencies because of consolidation of sectors.

With the new law there will be 20 sectors instead of the existing 28. As for the IndustriALL Global Union affiliates, textile, garment and leather will be one single sector while the paper industry will be coupled with the wood sector. The shipbuilding sector will be merged with ports and warehouses. This means that 10 out of the currently authorized 50 unions will lose their competencies in 2013 with immediate effect. According to these calculations, if the current membership figures continue as today, 29 unions will be unable to negotiate in 2018.

The workplace level threshold of 50 per cent plus one remains the same while enterprise level agreements covering several workplaces of same employer will be subject to 40 per cent plus one threshold, both of which are major barriers in union organizing.

Public notary endorsement of joining a union and resigning will be replaced by an e-government system, but this will take effect one year later. The details of the new system through the internet are not clear, and Turkish trade unions have serious concerns since it is designed to be under the control of the government.

The new law will also drastically reduce the range of protection of union membership, particularly in small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) employing less than 30 workers. Under the Turkish Labour Code, if an employer dismisses a worker for joining a trade union, it must pay additional compensation. Now around 6 million workers at SMEs, around 70 per cent of total labour market, will be completely unprotected in case of union membership-related dismissals. In addition, strike bans, postponements and limitations will remain in place, although the strike ban in the civil aviation sector, which was brought earlier this year on the occasion of the conflict at Turkish Airlines, has been lifted, which is positive.

IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan commented: “We are outraged and disappointed with this new law which is far from being in harmony with ILO standards and EU norms. This means our struggle together with the Turkish trade union movement will continue as has been. We expect the President of the Republic will use his authority to veto this anti-democratic law, particularly as some provisions will clearly exclude a big portion of Turkish workers from union activity even though international conventions and national constitution guarantee them.”