Labor unrest spreads to new factories as gov’t attempts to contain it

Fordand’s Turkish branch became the countryand’s third major car maker to halt production on Wednesday due to a widening labor dispute, causing government officials to worry about repercussions just weeks ahead of a general election.
The industrial action over working conditions and pay has spread to a number of parts suppliers clustered around the northwestern city of Bursa, the hub of the Turkish auto industry. Ford Otosan, a joint venture between Ford and Turkeyand’s Koandc Holding, said it had temporarily stopped production at two of its plants at GandOlcanduk and YenikandOy in northwestern Turkey because of supply problems. The dispute comes at an embarrassing time for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which has built its reputation on strong economic management, and faces a tough parliamentary election on June 7. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said on Wednesday he hopes problems in auto industry and”will be resolved in the coming days the labor minister and industry minister are talking to all sides.and”
andquotPrime Minister Ahmet Davutoilu is watching developments very carefully. We have doubts whether this is just an issue between the employees and employers, or if there is an ideological reason behind this. The timing of these protests is significant,andquot Babacan said. Production at two other auto makers, Oyak Renault and Tofai, which account for more than 40 percent of Turkeyand’s annual vehicle production, was halted earlier this week amid demands for better working conditions. The Automotive Manufacturers Association (OSD)alled on workers to stop protests, saying exports were being harmed and job cuts would be inevitable if the disruptions continued.
Workers say the dispute blew up after the Metal Workers Trade Union of Turkey (Tandurk Metal) negotiated a 60 percent wage hike for workers at a plant run by parts maker Bosch Fren last month, but failed to secure a similar deal elsewhere. Workers at Tofai, owned by both Italyand’s Fiat and Koandc, say Tandurk Metal is appointed with the approval of Tofai management and does not primarily serve their interests. They also want a pay increase. Tandurk Metal declined to comment but is expected to make a statement later in the day.
The mood in Bursa was defiant. Hundreds of workers poured into the parking lot outside the Tofas factory on Tuesday, hanging banners that read andquotTofai, Resistandquot and andquotWe will succeed.andquot Passing cars honked their horns in support. Shares in Ford Otosan, which said production would restart once supply issues were solved, fell by 1.61 percent on Wednesday.
The labor dispute started last Thursday at Turkeyand’s largest car factory run by Oyak Renault, a joint venture between Franceand’s Renault and the Turkish army pension fund. On Friday it spread to Tofai, which has halted production but says it does not expect sales to be affected.
h2Labor, exporters, unions seek end to unresth2
On Wednesday, Tandurk Metal also released a written statement regarding the strikes in an attempt to shed light on what workers present as the main cause for their disobedience. Workers quoted by media reports say the Tandurk Metal section that represents Renaultand’s workers had the management of another auto firm, Bosch increase workersand’ wages by 60 percent last year but failed to protect the rights of Reanultand’s employees. The union said in the statement: and”Tandurk Metal signed a significant collective bargaining agreement for Boschand’s workers who had been deprived of collective bargaining for 38 months. In order to ease their plight, the union managed to secure a wage increase for the years 2012- 2014 and achieved another increase for 2014 -2017, the amount of which is equal to what employees working at other companies obtained as a result of collective bargaining. Despite all this, however, the average wage of a Bosch worker is still behind what Renault or Tofai workers get on average.and”
and”In a short time, the protests have grown into a level which target our union, workplaces and the whole region. Tandurk Metal has exerted maximum efforts to establish dialogue with protestors but our efforts have yielded no results because of the groups which provoked the incidents. Our efforts are to end protests, start production and to resolve problems through negotiations,and” Tandurk Metaland’s statement read. The union also added it will continue to strive for resolution.
The same day, the Uludai Automotive Industry Exportersand’ Union (OiB) addressed the effects of the strikes on supply in a statement: and”The Turkish auto industry made $22.3 billion worth of exports in 2014 assuming one-sixth of the overall exports of the country. Yet, the latest developments of which we keep abreast with sorrow and which caused production to stop, have brought auto exports to a standstill. In the automotive sector where export purchases are received in hard conditions and where there is strong competition, even a day-long delay in the delivery of ordered products contains the risk of cancelled orders along with the loss of possible projects that would come into the country. Compensation costs stemming from backlogs will also put firms into trouble from which it will be to recover,and” OiB said hoping for a positive resolution in the protests.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman