UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Public sector workers across Turkey mobilise for the right to strike‏

Last week tens of thousands of public sector trade unionists in Turkey walked out in national action to secure the legal right to strike.On 25 November 2009 rallies were held in many parts of Turkey. The BBC reports that transport, hospitals, postal services and schools were disrupted.

Some trains are reported to have stopped halfway through their journeys. Turkey has nearly two million public sector workers. Though they can join unions, they are not allowed to strike. The mass action also shut down hospitals, prompting criticism and threats of disciplinary action from the health ministry. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8379090.stm

The Istanbul based news agency Bianet quotes strike leader Sami Evren, President of the Public Workers' Unions Federation (KESK) warning the Turkish Government:."If you do not grant these rights to us, we will expand the strike". Evren emphasized the need for sitting down at a collective labour agreement table on equal terms in order to properly defend the workers' rights and interests.

Turkey is an aspiring member of the EU and a member since of the ILO (since 1932). As a member state of the Council of Europe (since 1949) Turkey is party to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Its fundamental failure to comply with international conventions has given Turkey a growing significance in the struggle for global union rights. Union rights established in Turkey could have implications for countries such as the UK which severely restrict union rights - equally in breach of international conventions.

Earlier this month 22 public sector union members and leaders were freed after six months of unlawful detention . The following is an extract from a report on the website of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC):

'On Thursday 19 and Friday 20 November, in Izmir, Turkey, the ITUC attended, together with over a dozen representatives from trade unions and Global Union Federations from eight different European countries, the trial against 31 leaders and members of Turkish public sector union KESK. Being tried on charges of having established a terrorist organisation, 22 of them had already spent nearly six months in prison without access to due trial.

Between January and May 2009, the Turkish police had tapped the phones of 36 KESK members and leaders. The accusations were all written up after this. On 28 May, they were all arrested. In the end, 31 were made to stand trial on terrorism charges, of whom 22 were detained. From then on, their rights were violated in a huge number of ways.

After their arrest, they were kept in detention for almost six months. Until the submission of the indictment, on 31 July, the defence lawyers did not have access to their files. Their homes and workplaces were searched and their computers were confiscated. The only evidence against them stemmed from their recorded telephone conversations and their e-mail exchanges.

During the trial itself, the rights of the defense were constantly violated, with the president of the court himself doing the interrogations, the defense lawyers being impeded to speak to the defendants, and only one female guard being present although ten women were standing trial.

Last Friday night, the court in Izmir ruled all detainees had to be freed. Although the international trade union movement of course welcomed this decision, it remains highly concerned because all the accused will have to appear in court again in March next year.'
To read more go to: http://www.ituc-csi.org/spip.php?article4652