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Turkish union signs CBA with auto parts supplier after international solidarity

31 March, 2022IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Petrol-İş has signed a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Safe Demo Plastik after a ten-year organizing campaign with global support.

On 24 March 2022, Safe Demo Plastik signed a CBA with Petrol-İş after global action against union busting at the Turkish subsidiary of French auto parts supplier Safe Group. Petrol-İş first won legal recognition at Safe Demo Plastik in Bursa, Turkey, in 2019, after years of organizing, by recruiting a majority of the 400 workers. The labour ministry certified the recognition, but the company responded by challenging the certification in court and firing union members.

IndustriALL organized supply chain solidarity action, targeting Demo Plastik customers. Demo Plastik supplies Toyota Boshoku, Autoliv and Faurecia, all of which are organized by IndustriALL affiliates. Toyota Boshoku, a Japanese company which makes auto interiors, is organized by JCM-JAW, Autoliv, a Swedish company that makes car safety systems, is organized by IF Metall and Unionen, and Faurecia, a French company that makes interiors and exhaust systems, is organized by FCE-CFDT. These unions were able to provide useful leverage in the campaign.

At the same time, the union maintained a strong presence in the workplace. The determination of the workers and the commitment by the union to pursue the case through the courts all kept up pressure on the company.

The union submitted a new application for recognition in November 2021, which was again granted by the labour ministry and challenged by the company. In December 2021, IndustriALL wrote to the director general of Safe Group, raising concerns about union busting. After exhausting all avenues for defeating the union, the company recognized Petrol-İş and signed the CBA.

Petrol-İş president Süleyman Akyüz wrote to IndustriALL to thank the global labour movement for its support, saying:

“We are very well aware that the organizing activities of the company took so much time. At the end we had a great victory with the support and solidarity of our international family IndustriALL Global Union. The involvement of the IndustriALL made a great difference in this regard. Thanks to global solidarity.”

The CBA brings tremendous benefits to the workers at Demo Plastik. Before the organizing campaign, workers were paid close to minimum wage. The new, two-year CBA provides a substantial increase in wages and social premiums. Workplace issues, including overtime and health and safety, have been addressed with the participation of the union.

Erhan Yakışan, formerly the local union president in Bursa and now a Central Executive Committee member for Petrol-İş, said that the supply chain strategy had been key:

“We clearly saw that the attitude and behaviour of the local company management changed with the involvement of the unions which organize in the company’s customers. Long live international solidarity.”

Tom Grinter, IndustriALL director for the sector, said:

“This case took far too long: the company’s stubborn refusal to follow the law and recognize the union was damaging to them. But this case shows that global solidarity, especially when applied strategically along supply chains, makes a crucial difference in winning for workers.”

Main image: a 2019 image of Demo Plastik workers. Petrol-İş