KLAUS – Wage versus salary: What makes working people ‘working class’?

Wage versus salary: What makes working people ‘working class’?Is there still a Turkish working class out there true to the word? And if so, have their rights adequately improved over the years? Does “wage” imply a different class to “salary”? Besides, have pay slips seen significant increases, year on year? What about a fully functioning trade union movement?In other words: What brings people out onto the street on International Labor Day — to celebrate success, to acknowledge failure or simply to demand more?International Labor Day flashback first! In the early 1980s, most May 1-related events resembled more of a posh cocktail reception than an ordinary street manifestation. How come? In large parts of Western Europe, workers hailed the achievements of a more social-oriented state which allowed them to climb the ladder and eventually become middle class. Social mobility, as a concept, was far from perfect but at least produced tangible results. Car ownership, annual holidays, adequate housing and above all else clean and safe working conditions are only some of these achievements.Yet during the 1990s in particular, many such May Day demonstrations were misused by far-left or far-right political splinter groups intent on creating havoc in public spaces. Few of them were workers most were students. Most “real” workers would therefore decide that it is much better to take the family for a spring picnic instead of risking confrontation with riot gear police battling a mob targeting anything vaguely representing capitalism, including smashing small shop owners’ storefronts, not only McDonalds.However, come the new millennium and an economic meltdown in a fair number of European countries, May Day once more resembled a symbol of defending ones rights, of demanding more jobs, of asking for governments to bail out ailing enterprises. It had all of a sudden become a soft version of the otherwise more outspoken — i.e., more violent — anti-capitalist sentiments which had not been seen at that gale force magnitude for decades.Here in Turkey, for far too long promoting workers’ rights had not been a priority at all. In particular, the supposedly social democrat-motivated Republican People’s Party (CHP) was more interested in defending an elite-oriented status-quo as opposed to becoming a platform for Turkey’s millions, back in an era that mostly underpaid wage earners.Today’s Turkey — interestingly enough, under a politically different colored government, the AK Party — has been through a great many changes with regard to enhancing working people’s quality of life. Nevertheless, although wages are higher than a decade ago, they are still not at the required level to live comfortably off them instead of having to resort to expensive credit cards or overdrafts. Access to individual home ownership, although more widespread, is still an unobtainable luxury for most workers! The foreign summer holiday often only materializes if a family member happens to live in that other country, thus immensely reducing costs. Private healthcare is not an option, either.Turkish workers have a right to demand an increase in the minimum wage to more equally benefit from the country’s economic rise, to more readily obtain access to home ownership via worker-friendly mortgage options, to the setting up of (partly)ompany-sponsored workers’ pension plans, to have better life-long learning opportunities not to be taken as unpaid holidays but as part of a work-time personal development package, and above all else, to ask for much healthier and much safer conditions in the workplace. Vocational education and training must become a highly sought-after future career choice and lifted from its wrongfully attached “second class” stigma. For this, you need a powerful trade union movement.Turkey’s working class is only now starting to form and members of the working class must be allowed to be heard more clearly and their legitimate demands must be taken much more seriously every day of the year, not only on May 1.

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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