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Victory for metalworkers in Turkey

24 January, 2017Strike action by over 2,000 workers in Turkey has paid off as IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Birleşik Metal İş, wins a major victory in securing a better deal for metalworkers. 

Some 2,200 workers at three companies and 13 plants across Turkey began strike action on Friday 20 January, after union collective bargaining negotiations with major electrical equipment multinationals, Schneider, General Electric and ABB, broke down.

Even though the Turkish government swiftly issued a decree postponing and effectively banning the strike, the metalworkers went ahead with industrial action.

A breakthrough came following talks brokered by the Ministry of Labour on 23 January, between union representatives and management in the capital, Ankara. The companies finally increased their offer and reached an agreement that will increase workers’ wages, social benefits, and overtime pay, as well as provide other benefits.   

Birleşik Metal İş General Secretary Özkan Atar says:

"For many years now, workers in Turkey have been unable to exercise their right to strike because the government banned almost all strikes claiming they were a threat to national security or public health. By not accepting the ban, metalworkers took a huge risk as these big electrical equipment companies threatened to dismiss them for illegal strike action. But our members did not submit to threats and they set a new path for workers. They have regained the right to strike for the entire working class in Turkey."

In congratulating Birleşik Metal İş and their members, IndustriALL General Secretary, Valter Sanches, said:

“You showed that through mobilization, and not backing down in the face of threats and intimidation, it is possible to win. It's an important example for us all. Multinational companies must stick to international laws on freedom of association and workers’ rights, wherever they operate, not just when they are forced to.”

The agreement, which was signed between Birleşik Metal İş and EMIS (Electromechanical Employers' Association), includes:

  • An increase of 1,2 Turkish Lira (US$0.32) + 7 per cent in hourly wages for the first six months of the agreement. On average this means, an 18.5 per cent increase. In the following 12 months, there will be an increase of inflation rate plus 1 per cent.
  • The duration of the agreement will be two years rather than three years as employers had demanded.
  • An increase of 27 per cent in social benefits.
  • Over time pay will be 200 per cent on religious holidays.
  • Paid leave on International Day for Disabled People.
  • Private health insurance for all workers at ABB.

Turkish metalworkers strike outside General Electric on 20 January. 

Birleşik Metal İş members protest loudly outside Schneider Electric in Turkey before an agreement was reached.