Turkish unity wins out against all odds

In defiance of a strike ban imposed by the government, Turkish metalworkers have fought on against threats and intimidation to win a new sectoral collective agreement offering wage rises of almost 25%.

The strike action – due to begin on 2 February 2018 – was outlawed by government decree as being “prejudicial to national security”. The trade union response was forthright: “We don’t recognise the strike ban!”

Following a series of demonstrations, the three unions representing metalworkers and the Metal Industry Employers’ Association, MESS, have settled on a new two-year agreement, backdated to 31 August 2017, covering 130,000 workers in 179 enterprises. The final offer of a 24.6% increase in wages and 23% boost in social benefits and complementary health insurance was a substantial improvement to the employers’ earlier position.

“Signing this collective agreement is an achievement of metalworkers who did not recognise the strike ban,” declared Birleşik Metal-İş, one of the three unions involved. “We thank everyone for their effort in this process.”

“Your unity, struggle and determination made such a great victory possible,” responded the general secretaries of the metalworkers’ confederations IndustriAll Europe and IndustriAll Global in a letter to the union leaders. “We congratulate all the Turkish metalworkers on their determined stance in these hard negotiations. You have set a great example to the whole world that when you stick together, anything can be achieved. We trust that this unity will be maintained.”

The two organisations had already protested against the strike ban, expressing “strong disapproval of the Government of Turkey’s blatant violation of the fundamental right of workers to strike, which is guaranteed by the Constitution of Turkey as well as international labour conventions, and the jurisprudence of the International Labour Organization.”