Turkey’s unions fight attempts to amend labour law

Turkey’s major labour confederations are up in arms in opposing their government’s attempt to amend the country’s Labour Act.  Through an Omnibus Law, the Turkish government seeks to expand the coverage of fixed-term labor contracts covering workers who are below 25 and above 50 years of age and undermine their right to severance pay. 

Holding various protest actions online and off,  the TURK-IS, DISK and HAK-IS have called for the immediate withdrawal of the measure warned that the government is courting a general strike if it insists on passing the bill.They said that since the early 2000s, the Turkish government has been attempting to amend the Labour Act and undermine the right to severance pay, which it sees as an added burden cost for employers. 

Last June, the government attempted to transform the workers’ severance pay into a pension fund system but was thwarted by the trade unions’ strong resistance. 

BWI affiliates Turkish Union of Road, Construction and Building Workers (YOL-IS), Turkish Cement, Ceramics, Pottery and Glass Industry Workers’ Union (CIMSE-IS), Turkish Wood and Paper Industry Workers’ Union (AGAC-IS) and Turkish Forestry Workers’ Union (ORMAN-IS), which are all under the TURK-IS, also added their voices in opposing the measure.

“BWI affiliates are taking the protests to the streets, talking to various national and local news organisations and lobbying Parliament to maintain the workers’ right to severance pay. I believe that we will be able to hear some positive news soon,” YOL-IS President Ramazan Agar said. 

For his part, BWI Pan-European Regional Representative Coen van der Veer noted that what is happening in Turkey is part of a long list of so-called reforms that many European governments are pushing for in the name liberalization and flexibilization. 

“We see these ‘reforms’ as clear and well-defined attempts by governments to limit the social progress unions have made over the past 100 years. Turkey and our affiliates are not new to these. Through their concerted efforts, we will stop this latest assault to labour rights and prevail,” he said.