16 June, 2022Nearly five years after they were fired for joining a union, a Turkish court has ruled in favour of the 80 workers dismissed in 2017 and that that Birleşik Metal İş is the representative union in the workplace.
In 2017, IndustriALL affiliate Birleşik Metal-İş attempted to organize the 420 workers at the Posco Assan steel plant in Kocaeli, Turkey, after they expressed deep dissatisfaction with wages and working conditions. When management heard about the organizing effort, they organized individual meetings with workers to intimidate them into leaving the union. Those who refused to resign from the union were fired.
In 2017, the company also changed registration of their office to a metal factory to prevent Birleşik Metal-İş to gain the required majority at the factory. Turkish trade union law requires a union to have at least 50 per cent +1 membership of the overall workforce in the company to be the legal representative.
After five years, Turkey’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, ruled earlier this month that the union did in fact have majority in the workplace and that Posco has to recognize the union as a collective bargaining partner.
The court had previously ruled that as the dismissals in 2017 were for joining a union, they were nul and void and that the 80 workers should be reinstated. Posco was ordered to pay a total of 16 months of salary, in addition to the severance pay.
However, Posco refused to reinstate the workers and instead had to pay extra compensation.
Birleşik Metal-İş has reached out to shareholders of POSCO Steel since 2017, and the Nordea Bank in Sweden decided to disinvest from POSCO and add POSCO to their exclusion list over“violation of established norms.”
Says IndustriALL assistant general secretaty Kemal Özkan:
“This case clearly shows how restricted the fundamental right of freedom of association is for Turkish workers. It is unacceptable to have to wait five years to get union recognition and at the expense of workers’ jobs and livelihoods. POSCO and its partner exploited the legislative process to prevent workers from the protection of a collective bargaining agreement.
“IndustriALL is urging POSCO to respect the final court verdict and engage with Birleşik Metal-İş for a collective bargaining process in good faith.”
Posco is the world’s fifth largest steel company. There is no union representation in the home country of Korea because of the company’s anti-union stance.