Workers’ strikes halt production in Turkey’s industrial hub

Work stoppage that kicked off on Thursday at the Turkish factory of French car manufacturer, Renault, has grown into a region-wide strike with thousands of workers from several automotive firms walking off the job in the northwestern industrial city of Bursa.

After some 5,000 Renault workers went on strike over wage increases on Thursday night, workers at another automaker, Tofai — a joint venture between Italian Fiat and Turkey’s Koc Holding — and those at coskunOz Holding, a well-established domestic producers of auto parts, initiated their own protest. While Renault announced that it had suspended production at the factory until May 18, Tofai sent their workers an SMS message that said operations had ceased until further notice. CoikunOz said the workers’ demands were unlawful and would not be met, vowing to take legal action.

The strike is supported by workers from a host of companies operating in the automotive sector in Bursa such as Beltan Trelleborg Vibracoustic (TBVC), Delphi, SKT, Ototrim Automotive, Rollmech and Mako. The Renault factory in Turkey is run as a joint venture with the army pension fund, Oyak, and is reported to produce around 318,000 cars a year while Tofai manufactures 240,000 units. According to news agencies that have talked to protesters since Thursday, the labor union that represents Renault’s workers had the management of another factory in the automotive sector increase workers’ wages by 60 percent effective as of April for the next three years, but failed to agree on a wage hike for the Renault employees.

Employees’ families show solidarity

Employees on strike and their families have been protesting in front of their companies since Thursday, with some staying overnight in tents in the factory yards. A man who has worked for Renault for eight years, Erhan imrali, said the company has not offered a considerable wage increase for a long time despite high inflation rates. Underlining that the time period for collective bargaining was recently extended from two to three years, imrali said: “We showed our reaction but the union failed to declare this to the company. hellip All we want is to have same conditions as the workers of the company that provided a wage increase, but the management [of the union] did not lend an ear to us.” Pevrul Kavlak, the head of the Metal Workers Trade Union of Turkey (Turk Metal), which is authorized to engage in collective bargaining agreements with Renault on behalf of its workers, said he has contacted the Renault headquarters in France but management will not allow the Turkish affiliate to go beyond the conditions compromised in the collective bargaining deal. The United Metal Workers’ Union (Birleiik Metal-ii), which is part of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DiSK), released a statement on Friday enumerating the workers’ demands, which include increased wages, job security, recognition of worker representatives when bargaining with the company and assistance in eliminating fake unions in bargaining. Metal Industrialists’ Union (MESS) and The Turkish Confederation of Employers’ Unions (TiSK), on the other hand, called on workers to end their protests.

Index confirms Turkey has a gripe with unionization

Visiting protesters in front of the Tofai and Renault factories on Friday and Saturday, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Sena Kaleli and Mahmut Tanal offered their support to the workers. Tanal said: “The workers’ union reached a deal with the employers and the employees suffered in the end. The union abuses its duty and rights. In the case of misconduct, the contracts the union signed with the employees become null and void.” Unions have always been a source of debate in Turkey, with the management of authorized unions failing to protect workers’ rights and mostly backing the government and companies. As a result, workers often opt out of being a union member, exposing them to abuse by their employers. According to Ministry of Labor and Social Security data, unionization density corresponding to the ratio of wage and salary earners that are trade union members, divided by the total number of the labor market, massively dipped from 57.5 percent in 2003 to 9.68 percent in 2014, signifying a worsening trend. Yet, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) statistics on this index are far worse than those recorded in Turkey’s official data, hinting at a bleaker picture. Turkey had the lowest rate of unionization density in the OECD, with merely 4.5 percent of its labor market being a member of a union in 2012. The OECD average in the same year was 17.1 percent. The OECD doesn’t count those who are not members of authorized unions in the calculation.

Family doctors to walk off jobs between May 20-22

Medical personnel unions have called on family doctors to strike for three days in a bid to protest the excessive work load laid out by the Health Ministry.

Some 23,350 family doctors are expected to walk off the job between Wednesday and Friday.

The decision to strike is supported by several syndicates including the Turkish Doctors Union (TBB), The Revolutionary Health Union (Dev Sailik-ii), Turkish Dental Association (TDB) and the Social Services Laborers Union (SES).

In a press conference on Friday, Dr. Erduirul Aydin, the head of the Bursa Chamber of Medicine, said: “Primary care medical personnel will not work on May 21, 22 or 23 in order to request [from the Health Ministry] a change to the current regulations that force medical personnel to work on Saturdays and which exacerbate the working conditions.”

Dr. Filiz unal incekara, a senior official from the TBB, said earlier that the strike was directed at the ministry: “We warn the Health Ministry for the last time. You cannot leave this many workers without jobs and the public without doctors.”

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SOURCE: Today’s Zaman