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Workers at Turkish Saint-Gobain subsidiary strike for a fair contract

18 January, 2019Workers at İzocam, a Turkish insulation manufacturer and subsidiary of French multinational Saint-Gobain, take strike action after failing to agree on a collective contract.

Workers have begun an indefinite strike today demanding better pay and working conditions after failure to agree a first contract between the Kristal-İş union and İzocam management. IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Kristal-İş represents some 180 İzocam workers in two workplaces, the Tarsus, Mersin plant, which produces glass wool, and the Gebze plant, which produces mineral wool.

Kristal-İş gained legal recognition as the union representing workers at İzocam in May 2018, after a four-and-a-half-year organizing campaign and legal battle, and commenced collective negotiations in August 2018.

During the campaign, company management took a hostile anti-union position and attitude against workers who joined the union, a basic right guaranteed by the Constitution of Turkey, as well as international labour conventions. Soon after Kristal-İş first applied to the Ministry of Labour for recognition, company management became aware of the drive and dismissed four organizers.

To establish mutual trust during the contract negotiations, Kristal-İş offered a reasonable transition process envisaging a steady increase in real wages, social benefits, overtime and night work, paid holidays, and improved health and safety measures through a two-year collective agreement. In return, the company offered a three-year contract with below-inflation pay increases, described by the union as “a mockery of İzocam workers who have been patiently waiting for their first collective bargaining agreement for five years.”

The company also refuses to rehire the four workers unjustly laid-off for leading union organizing almost five years ago.

There are 21 articles of the collective agreement subject to disagreement, 20 of them regarding wages and benefits.

Matthais Hartwich, IndustriALL director for the materials industries, said:

“I think it is unworthy of a company like Saint-Gobain to tolerate this kind of delay in its Turkish operation İzocam. Kristal-İş has struggled for years for recognition and for fair negotiations, and again local management is playing tricks and trying to delay the process.

“It is high time to come to a fair agreement. IndustriALL stands in solidarity with the men and women working at İzocam and organized in Kristal-İş.”

İzocam is jointly owned by Saint-Gobain and Kuwaiti investment company Alghanim.