Turquía - The TEKEL workers’ case - workers forced to accept inferior working conditions (2011)

The Turkish government’s decision to privatise TEKEL (former state tobacco and alcohol monopoly) warehouses led to the dismissal of 12,000 workers. These workers, along with their families and supporters, started demonstrating on 15 December 2009. The protest began in front of the headquarters of Prime Minister Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), but the police cleared the area on 16 December and forced the demonstrators to a nearby park. The following day, police put up barricades around the park and then used water hoses and tear gas against the demonstrators. Police violence escalated and clubs were used against the demonstrators, many of whom had to be hospitalised. Mustafa Türkel, President of Tekgida-Is, which represents these workers and is affiliated to TURK-Is, and General Secretary of Türk-Is, were arrested, but then released later that evening. The police violence caused an outcry in the Turkish Parliament, but the government continued to refuse to accede to the workers’ demand that they be given alternative employment with full employee benefits, as the law on privatisation provides.

In 2010, after 78 days of protesting, the workers ceased their action only to return to the streets of Ankara on 1 April for a one-day protest against working under Article 4/C of Law No. 657 (on working conditions of public employees), which restricts them to lower wages and fewer employee rights. Workers coming from different provinces were not allowed to enter the city in groups and convene at their previously scheduled meeting point in front of TURK-Is headquarters. Police and workers subsequently clashed in different parts of the city. Workers from KESK, who came to the city center in a show of support for the Tekel workers, similarly faced police using pepper gas.

The union took the Article 4/C case to court, as the measure in itself contravened Turkish law. The government, however, financially forced workers to resume work under Article 4/C after it blocked the union’s solidarity fund account in September. As the court case was postponed time and again, most workers, in need of an income, saw no other option but to resume working.

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