The meeting on "Trade Union Rights in Turkey" organized by the Global Union Federations (GUF) on 8/9 September brought together international section union federations at the Çınar Hotel in Istanbul.
GUF representatives and members of the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) attended the meeting as well as representatives of member unions in Turkey. Discussions were held and future plans were made on topics such as international activities on sector levels, union rights violations in Turkey and union laws.
"Turkey is the focal point of international criticism"
The Secretary General of the International Trade Union Federation of Food Workers (IUF), Ron Oswald, evaluated the two-day meeting in a final press release. He pointed out deficiencies in the acceptance of workers' rights in Turkey although the country had a developed economy and despite its approach towards a modern democracy.
"Turkey has been widely criticized on the level of workers' organizations by the ILO [International Labour Organization] and the United Nations. The country was a focal point for important concerns and struggles of international unions and human rights organizations", Oswald noted.
He indicated that during the two-day meeting he listened to many violations experienced and documented by union members and that these violations were unacceptable in a democratic country.
"Unsecured forms of employment are increasing in number. We support our members' opposition against the establishment of special employment offices in Turkey".
"Threats, violence and lay-offs have to be stopped"
Oswald called on the government to amend union laws and regulations on collective bargaining agreements. He urged the government and employers in the private sector to stop permanent threats and physical violence against workers and union executives who want to use their rights.
"Systematic lay-offs of workers who use their right to union membership have to be stopped. Working conditions are mostly very dangerous and inhumane. The right to secure and healthy work has to be guaranteed".
Oswald announced that he committed himself to the support for gaining these rights in Turkey.
Crucial support of international unions
Kenan Öztürk, General Chairman of the Turkey Motor Vehicle Workers' Trade Union (TÜMTİŞ) which is affiliated with the Turkish Confederation of Labour Unions (Türk-İş), said that the support of international unions was crucial since the number of multinational companies in Turkey increased significantly in the past few years".
"The workers of the international UPS cargo company were supported by protest actions in 50 countries around the world during their 272-day resistance and they succeeded in their struggle. Also for the workers of Merisn Port as part of an international company, international support was decisive for their victory".
Uğur Doğan is a worker with a disability of 70 percent. He was sacked by the Tobacco, Alcoholic Beverages and Food Subsidiary Workers Union of Turkey (Tek Gıda-İş) after 18 years of work. He sued the union and the court decided that the union had to re-employ the disabled worker. However, Tek Gıda-İş refused to do so. Doğan held a two-month vigil in front of the union office. He distributed leaflets with information on his situation to the participants of the meeting saying, "Since I could not get any support from national unions, I am making my voice heard to international unions".
The following unions participated in the two-day meeting: ITUC, GUF, IUF, International Metal Workers Federation (IMF), Public Services International (PSI), International Chemical, International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers Union (ICEM), International Textile Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF), Union Network International (UNI), International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and from Turkey Tek Gıda-İş, Petrol-İş, United Transportation Union, Turkish Union for Trade, Cooperative, Education, Office and Arts Workers (Tez-Koop İş), Home Workers' Solidarity Union. (NV/VK)