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ICEM’s Turkish Affiliates’ Coordinating Committee meets in Ankara

Turkish affiliates of the ICEM, some 13 in total, have come together to form a committee with a view to working efficiently and being actively involved in the activities of the ICEM.

The first meeting of the ICEM Turkish Coordination Committee was held in Ankara on 2 August 2007. Chaired by Mustafa Kumlu, President of Turkish Electricity, Water and Gas Workers’ Union (Tes-İş), which hosted the historic gathering, the meeting was attended by 30 representatives from the affiliates.

At his opening speech, Mustafa Kumlu, an ICEM Executive Committee member, said, “Turkey is situated in a unique part of the world. On the one hand we have Europe and the Balkans, and on the other Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Mediterranean basin.

“This gives us very important, but very difficult tasks,” he added. Kumla said part of the difficulty lies with the fact that the Turkish trade union movement is facing an era of privatisation, rampant subcontracting, trade union rights violations, and redundancies that are steadily growing. “We expect the ICEM to support us in promoting trade union rights and freedoms, as well as to provide solidarity in time of conflicts, especially during organising drives,” Kumla said.

Turkish unions, he stressed, want to make their own inputs into the activities of the ICEM, as well as support and solidarity worldwide. “One of the important pillars of our trade union work is to reinforce international solidarity and transnational cooperation,” Kumla said.

But there can be no denying that Turkish labour legislation is wilfully lacking in meeting international standards, particularly ILO conventions. Turkey’s trade union leaders are well aware that the ILO’s Committee on Applications of Standards has placed the country and employers operating in the country on the agenda at its meetings this year.

ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda presented the federation’s activities, and spoke of the developments in connection with ICEM’s 4th World Congress in November in Bangkok, Thailand. He also spoke on the different projects of the ICEM, including HIV/AIDS and Contract and Agency Labour. He also addressed regional-based projects, and said that it was essential that affiliates use the ICEM’s Global Framework Agreements to organise inside multinational companies.

Warda took up potential cooperation areas and joint initiatives in which Turkish unions are welcome and invited to participate. Specifically, he mentioned the ICEM’s role in bringing free and democratic trade unions in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East, as well as further involvement in the highly successful energy project in the Caspian Region.

The ICEM Chemicals and Rubber Industry Officer, Kemal Özkan, informed participants about ICEM’s specific services for affiliates, such as efforts to create a Turkish language version on the ICEM website. Özkan, a trade unionist who spent many years in the Turkish labour movement, also cited specific projects for the country in the coming months, including a workshop on Contract and Agency Labour in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).

Commenting on the reports given, the participants expressed their appreciation to the ICEM as it actively continues to back ongoing industrial actions and strikes in different industries inside Turkey. (13 August 2007)