"We're on strike on 21 December, the longest night, to reach brighter days."
Coordinated by the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and Confederation of Public Workers' Unions (KESK), thousands of public workers demonstrated in Istanbul's historical Beyazıt Square.
The one-day strike was supported by political parties, unions and groups, among them were the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) and Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK).
TTB is opposing government's policies to make health services increasingly costly, instead of free for all. KESK demands right to collective bargaining increase in the minimum wage, job security and the release of political prisoners.
Demonstrators also expressed their support for the arrested journalists during the latest wave of police operations targeting the alleged pro-Kurdish KCK.
TTB's Central Management Committee member Osman Öztürk said that the government's health reform resulted in opening the area to market forces, therefore aggrieving both doctors and patients.
"The decree law no 663 was released at midnight, even before consulting the MPs let alone the unions, the opposing parties or trade associations. This decree foresees that almost everyone would pay premiums to get health care after January 1st. Patients will pay contributions for each medicine they get."
Öztürk noted that they organized people's assemblies at hospitals and they will oppose this decree.
KESK Secretary General İsmail Hakkı Tombul said they went on to strike even though the government doesn't recognize public workers' right to stop work.
"We were not fooled by the ruling AKP when they promised to give workers' right to collective bargaining and to strike. AKP is trying to impose its views by negotiating only with MEMURSEN [A confederation deemed close to the government]"
Tombul also requested the release of dissident journalists, students, politicians and workers arrested on political charges.
A representative from Ecuador's Democratic People's Movement spoke at the demonstration, saying they also fight for free education and health services and emphasizing the importance of "international solidarity".
At the end of the meeting, thousands danced to the music of Grup Yorum and Mesopotamia Cultural Center's musicians. (NV/EÜ)
* See the photo gallery here.
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