Gov’t woos employers, labor unions silent on minimum wage

As Cabinet ministers publicly call on businesspeople to react to opposition parties’ pledges to increase the minimum wage, arguing that the result would be a probable increase in employment costs, most of the labor unions that are meant to vocalize workers’ interests and complaints remain silent, increasing concerns over the proliferation of “yellow unions” in the country.

“Yellow union” refers to unions that collaborate with the government and employers instead of workers.

As a clear sign of displeasure over the economic plans of opposition parties, during a panel held by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TiM) on Monday Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoilu urged businessmen to broadly asses what the opposition parties’ pledges would mean to them.

“The optimum minimum wage is set during a meeting that is attended by workers, employers as well as representatives from the government. You know best how bad populist tendencies would affect our exports. In the run-up to the general election, please don’t be worried about the government’s commitment to shaping the future by following rational economic policies with no concession to its medium and long-term targets.”

During a meeting to promote the Justice and Development Party on Sunday, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci also slammed economic promises made by opposition parties on the eve of the June 7 elections: “The addressees of what they say are workers, business associations, Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges [TOBB], industrialists associations, exporters and producers. We keep silent [about this issue]. You teach them their place do not keep quiet against them.”

“What if companies’ expenses rise despite constant revenue? They would be obliged to employ 200 personnel instead of 300. If they fail, they go bankrupt,” Zeybekci added.

However, most workers’ unions have kept quiet about the government’s reaction to pro-worker promises by the opposition parties.

Commenting on the minister’s statements, Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Turk-ii) President Ergun Atalay said: quotWe don’t want minimum wage to be subject to taxation. We support whoever attempts to do that.quot

Unions have long been criticized by the opposition for their pro-government stance in collective bargaining agreements. Despite a high inflation rate, the union and government last year agreed on a 6 percent increase to the minimum wage in each the first and second half of 2015.

During a panel conference on job safety held by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security last week, Public Workers’ Labor Union (Kamu-Sen) President ismail Koncuk protested the grim structure of local unions.

While Civil Servants’ Trade Union (Memur-Sen) head Ali Yalcin was delivering his speech, Koncuk interrupted him and said: “Instead of workers’ troubles, you are recounting what the government has done like [you are] a representative of the government. Why are you addressing my criticisms? Are you a government representative?”

Speaking to the Hurriyet daily after the conference, Koncuk defended his actions, saying: “The labor minister was already in attendance. He should speak after all. But I stood up when the Memur-Sen head started to reply to my complaints. hellip I turned to the dear minister and said: You are here, but he is replying to me. I wonder if he is trying to replace you.’ The minister said, You listen to me,’ but I left the meeting in protest of the union.”