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25 March, 2022On this year’s International Women’s Day, trade unions in Turkey highlighted the situation of women in the country, supporting the women workers fighting for their rights. Women are bearing the brunt of Turkey’s increasing inflation - poverty, discrimination and a gender pay gap are daily realities for an increasing number of women workers.
“It’s getting harder and harder to exercise your rights as a woman worker in Turkey. Because of traditions, women are viewed as second class citizens – this is why we rise up. I am proud to see women rising up today because of inflation. Women strive to get a job, to keep it, to get organized. But when workers are dismissed, women workers are the first ones,”
says Selda Tekman, IndustriALL Executive Committee member and president of the Bursa branch of Turkmetal.
On 8 March, Petrol-is organized an activity to support the women workers picketing outside the PAS South East Europe Factory in Çerkezköy. The workers are protesting after management forced them to resign their union membership. In addition, PAS South East Europe terminated the employment contracts of 20 union members, 17 of which are women, in February.
Women workers are also at the forefront of similar labour conflicts in Technomix or Farplas, where workers were dismissed over joining a union. In some cases, women picketing outside factories have been beaten up and arrested by the police.
The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation means women workers in Turkey are getting increasingly poor. The conflict in Ukraine is further worsening the economic situation, leading to a lack of raw materials for production. With a decrease of purchasing power, women are increasingly excluded from social life and activities.
The national IndustriALL women network met on 3 March, with 15 participants from Birlesik Metal-Is, Deriteks, DISK/TEKSTIL, KRISTAL-IS, Öz Iplik-Is, PETROL-IS, Cimse-Is, Belediye-Is, Tes-Is and Turkish Metal Workers’ Union, and Teksif.
In the context of the crisis, trade unions are reporting an increase in women membership. But women trade union leaders say unions need to be more inclusive.
The burden of unpaid care work carried by women has increased during the pandemic, preventing them from entering labour market and having access to good quality jobs. The need for childcare services and crèches, specifically in economic zones is more important than ever.
The leaders highlighted the urgent need for women workers to organize to reach powerful collective agreements. The women union leaders are demanding more nurseries, an increase to the minimum wage and severance payment to women during the crisis. They have also identified combatting violence a priority and have started educating on violence and harassment in the workplace using the train the trainers C190 booklet.
Trade unions report that clauses on gender-based violence, ILO Convention 190 and gender equality are included in collective agreements.
The women leaders denounced the structural barriers and the gender-based discrimination that prevent women from benefitting from equal pay and equal opportunities in the world of work.