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Turkish unions of IMF, ICEM, ITGLWF form unity coalition

Turkish national union leaders and local leaders from the Thrace region – all leaders of unions affiliated with the ICEM, IMF, and ITGLWF – convened recently to give mutual support and to tackle several cases of industrial discord in the rapidly-growing manufacturing zone. The February manifestation was the start of a unity coalition aimed at providing aid and assistance to affiliates of the three Global Union Federations (GUFs) in the Free Trade Zone of Corlu.

The ICEM has 14 affiliates in Turkey, while the IMF has three affiliates, and ITGLWF four. This situation indeed makes Turkey a priority country for work by the three GUFs.

The February protest centered on giving support to ICEM affiliate Petrol-İş in its two-month strike against India-base Polyplex company, a plastics and polyester company. (See an ICEM news article and join the LabourStart campaign on Polyplex.) 

Management had sacked trade union activists. The manifestation also addressed other trade union infringements, particularly at worksites where organising drives are underway. The five unions attending the protest pledged to support one another in the Thrace region in ongoing strikes and recruitment drives.

The protest also was aimed at the Turkish government’s recent efforts to modify labour legislation regarding casual, temporary, and precarious work. Thrace is an area of Turkey experiencing a high rate of foreign industrial investments, ranging from metals to textiles to natural gas, chemicals, and rubber manufacturing.

“For many days we have been striking at workplaces individually,” said Petrol-İş President Mustafa Öztaşkın. “But today all the unions striking in the region have come together. We have unified our powers. We have decided to walk together and to organize joint demonstrations and actions. Our hope is that this bond now starting in Thrace will spread to the whole of the country.”

“Regardless of distinction or which confederation the union belongs,” added Adnan Serdaroğlu, the President of Birleşik Metal-İş. “We will defend the rights of dismissed workers.”

Musa Servi, President of the ITGLWF affiliate Deri-İş, representing leather and shoe workers, said, “Employers will try to exploit by establishing factories in free trade zones where union rights are weak. If we act together, we can change this.” The President of TEKSTIL, Ridvan Budak, also attended.

Nearby to Corlu, 12 factories have been targeted for union organizing, but many union activists have been dismissed from their jobs because of their union membership. Besides Polyplex, factories of Yeşil Kundura (shoes), Disa Otomotiv (an auto supplier), Anakonda (metal fabrication), Astaş Alüminyum (aluminum), and Grup Suni Deri (leather) have been targeted for unionisation, and evidence of the disputes can be found with several tents of picketers to be found in front of plants. In some workplaces, achievements have been made while solidarity and support activities continue, as does several court cases.

Turkish unions seek to enhance the Thrace region unity to the whole country since the three GUFs are in the process of doing the same on the global level.(28 March 2011)