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ICEM’s WDDW activities start in Istanbul; March set in Bangkok on 7 october

World Day for Decent Work (WDDW) actions by the ICEM kicked off last week with two days of activities in Turkey, focusing on the dangers to civil society when full-time employment is eroded and use of contract and agency labour increases.

The ICEM is highlighting actions on curbing the anti-social nemesis of temporary and agency work in Turkey and Thailand as its part in WDDW for 2009, the second year that global labour has marked an October date to herald decent work and decent living standards. 7 October has become fixed as WDDW, and trade unions worldwide are encouraged to use the weeks of early October to publicly rally for sustainable jobs.

In Thailand, ICEM-affiliated trade unions, together with the Confederation of State Enterprise Unions, will gather at 10h00 on 7 October in front of the UN Building on Rachadamnoen Road. From there, a march will proceed to the Government House, where a petition will be submitted to the Prime Minister’s office calling on Thailand to ratify ILO Conventions 87 and 98, the Freedom of Association and Right to Organise and Right to Collective Bargaining Conventions.

The assembly is being buoyed by the Thai Solidarity Committee, and federated trade unions representing workers chemicals and petroleum, pulp and paper, automotive, electronics, textile and garments, and food workers. Thousands are expected to march.

In Istanbul, Turkey, on 1 October, a delegation of leading global union leaders first met with Turkish trade union officers to let them know that global labour stands with them in preventing re-submission of “Private Labour Offices” legislation in Turkey. In late June, the country’s Parliament moved such a bill to President Abdullah Gül without hearings or input from civil society.

On 9 July, President Gül vetoed the measure. The bill would have allotted fees to labour brokers in their jobs’ dispatch of temporary, and allowed any individual or business to certify as a private-hire labour agency with a minimal investment of TL 20,000 (€9,250).

Last Thursday, ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda, International Textile, Garment, Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWU) General Secretary Neil Kearney, International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) General Secretary Jyrki Raina, and ICEM Chemicals and Rubber Officer Kemal Özkan met with Turkish trade unions, as well as with Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-İş) General Secretary Mustafa Kumlu to pledge continued resistance to the bill.

Later in the day, Kumlu, an ICEM Executive Committee member, joined global union leaders in a meeting with Turkish Minister of Labour and Social Security Ömer Dinçer. The minister confirmed that the draft bill, at present, is not on the agenda of the Parliament.

Discussion also ensued on trade union rights and freedoms inside Turkey. Dinçer said his ministry is ready to cooperate with the global trade union movement to modify Turkey’s draconian labour code to become more in line with ILO Conventions and European Union norms. The union leaders also met separately on 1 October with Salim Uslu, president of Hak-İş, the Real Trade Unions Confederation of Turkey, and with Süleyman Çelebi, President of DİSK, the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions.

On 2 October, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Guy Ryder joined Warda, Kearney, Raina, and the four presidents of Turkish national labour centers at an 11h00 press conference. The conference was attended by 60 trade union leaders from inside Turkey, and press representing 18 Turkish media outlets.

Again, the message zeroed in on the growing threat to the living standards of workers under the present trend of discarding regular and full-time employees in favour of temporary and agency work. In two days, on 7 October, DİSK will distribute, in all workplaces in which it has membership, an ITUC manifesto on WDDW.

Meanwhile, the Türk-İş Confederation will sponsor an international symposium on decent work on that day at Gazi University in Ankara. The Global Union Council will be present for that symposium.

Also in Thailand this week, trade unions are doing vast media outreach around WDDW and are disseminating the IMF’s precarious work brochure and poster. (5 October 2009)