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Union mission to Turkey to support workers

31 March, 2017“All barriers before fundamental rights and union organizing in our country must be lifted,” said Turkish unions during a joint meeting with around 50 union leaders from 19 Turkish affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union, on 20 March in Ankara.

After the failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016, Turkey has been in a continuing state of emergency with limitations and restrictions on fundamental rights. The joint union meeting came just before a constitutional referendum to be held on 16 April, proposing a change from a parliamentarian to a presidential system. Unions and Turkish society in general, have different views on the possible consequences of a change.

Our unions need international solidarity, so this visit is very important,

said Mustafa Şahin, President of Turkish Energy, Gas and Water Workers’ Union and titular member of IndustriALL Global Union’s Executive Committee.

At this point, I believe that the only structure that can repair fragile bridge between Turkey, the European Union and the world, is the international trade union movement and labour solidarity.

Trade union rights in Turkey have come under criticism from the International Labor Organization and the EU. The state of emergency has seen more than 125.000 public servants suspended from their jobs, with some 78.000 already dismissed.

The government continues to postpone strikes in the metal, glass, mining and rubber industries under the pretext of “national security” and “general health” have meant an end to the right to strike.
Through a new decree the government has added, “breaking economic and financial stability” as another argument for banning strikes. A strike at one of the private banks was recently banned for this reason.

Turkey is one of our priority countries,

said Valter Sanches, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.

With its level of industry and proximity to other regions, developments in democracy and fundamental rights in Turkey are of critical importance for the global union movement. Our solidarity and support for our affiliates will continue.

A recent change in labour legislation, despite firm opposition by the trade unions, gives companies have a legal right to hire temporary workers from private employment agencies, making it more difficult for unions to recruit new members. The meeting identified a compulsory private life insurance system and changes in the labour court systems as new challenges for the union movement in Turkey. The unions also signaled that the government is preparing to attack severance payments.

The massive influx of refugees, particularly from Syria, poses a challenge on the economic, social and labour level. The textile, garment and leather sectors are heavily affected through an increased informal economy in the industries.

The joint meeting in Ankara reiterated that “Europe, Turkey and the international community must increase their efforts to promote the spread of peace, democracy, economic development, equality and decent jobs”.

Turkish affiliates also affirmed that “specific attention must be devoted to respect for and full enforcement of trade union rights in Turkey, including freedom of association, the right to strike and collective bargaining”.

Turkey has historical economic and political ties with Europe,

stated Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll European Trade Union.

Cooperation of the Turkish unions and the European trade unions is very important for the respect of fundamental rights, and especially the freedom of association for the common interests of Turkish workers and European workers.

The meeting welcomed the idea of specific missions in the near future, with the involvement of different unions in Europe as well as from other parts of the world, which will send a clear signal of solidarity with Turkish unions and workers.

The meeting expressed its support and solidarity for the Transport Workers’ Union (TUMTIS), an ITF affiliate, after the Turkish Supreme Court upheld a verdict against members of the Ankara branch of the union, following a complaint by a logistics company where the union held successful organization drive in 2007. activities guaranteed by the Constitution of the country cannot be considered as crime, according to the Turkish unions. The court decision defines union organizing as a terrorist activity and collecting union dues as a means to finance the terror organization.

In addition to meeting the national centers Turk-Is, Hak-Is and DISK, IndustriALL Global Union and industriALL European Trade Union met with the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security to discus the problems raised by the affiliates.