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Turkey’s Petrol-Is launch creative organising campaign

ICEM affiliate Petrol-Is, Turkey’s Oil, Chemical and Rubber Workers Union, has started an organising campaign using unconventional methods. The campaign has received special commendation from ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda. Choosing to target the city of Duzce, near Istanbul, the city was covered in campaign materials, with every billboard showing posters from the union. Banners, brochures, flyers, stickers, TV and radio adverts, newspaper ads, t-shirts, and a campaign website, were all produced, so that the campaign would be impossible to miss. Progressive cinema celebrities also produced films connected to the campaign.

The special website and blog for the campaign can be found here. The project’s slogan “Sendikalı Ol” or “Be unionised” is accompanied by “Umutlu Ol” (Be hopeful), “Güçlü Ol” (Be Strong), “Güvenli Ol” (Be Secure), “Mutlu Ol” (Be Happy), “Birlik Ol” (Be United) and “Etkili Ol” (Be Effective). The blog has specific sections designed for potential new members, “What is the Union?”, “Why Unionise?”, “What is Petrol-Is?”

The impressive project is the result of long-term research and planning by the union. Following a dramatic decline in membership in early 1990s, organizing became an urgent priority on the Petrol-Is agenda. This extremely visible campaigning technique was chosen, to break the pattern of previous trade union recruitment campaigns. Many companies in Turkey do not recognise workers’ right to organise as a legitimate right. Previous union organising campaigns had come up against repressive union-busting measures from the employers, such as threats dismissals, blacklists, redundancies. Unions had therefore been forced to be conduct campaigns in secrecy.

The Duzce campaign was a chance to break a mindset that identifies “union organizing” with “anarchy”. The union’s message was conveyed, not only to unorganized workers at their worksites, but also to their families and local communities. The campaign created an atmosphere full of energy, hope and self-confidence, especially for young workers.

Next steps for the campaign will be a comprehensive recruitment drive in the coming months, similar publicity campaigns in other Turkish cities and at the national level. (27 July 2009)