Around 130,000 members from three Turkish metal unions, Türk Metal, Birleşik Metal-İş and Özçelik-İş, are determined to continue their struggle for a fair collective agreement after negotiations fail. Unions are planning a strike next month, if a solution is not found.
The existing collective agreement covering around 200 workplaces, including large multinational companies, expired in August last year.
Negotiations started in October, with the three unions presenting their demands on wage increases between 26 and 34 per cent, and improved working conditions through a two-year contract. The Turkish Employers Association of Metal Industries (MESS) insisted on a three-year contract.
MESS offer of wage increase went from the inflation rate, 6,05 per cent, to eight per cent, and later to ten per cent, which was rejected by the unions as it was far from the demands and expectations of the workers.
Adnan Serdaroglu, Birlesik Metal-Is president, said:
“We create wealth and want our share. The demands of the metalworkers should be met. Otherwise, we will use our constitutional right, which is right to strike.”
As several rounds of negotiations failed, the three unions started taking action in the workplace in December, protesting against the employers through picketing, demonstrations, work stoppages and talking to the media.
On 19 January, hundreds of thousands metal workers joined rallies in Bursa, organized by Türk Metal, and in Gebze, organized by Birleşik Metal-İş, to show their determination for struggle for better wages and working conditions.
“This manifestation is for the millions of people who have been crushed in this country, who cannot afford their lives with today’s wages. This rally is a show of resistance, we will win this struggle together,”
said Pevrul Kavlak, Türk Metal president.
According to Turkish metalworkers, high levels of inflation, combined with a devaluation of the Turkish currency, has led to wages in the Turkish metal industry being barely above the national minimum wage.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the uncompromising stance of the employers concerning the legitimate demands of metal workers. We urge the employers to engage in a genuine dialogue with unions to reach an agreement to end poverty wages,"
said IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches.
IndustriAll Europe’s general secretary Luc Triangle said:
“We support our Turkish unions in their struggle for a fair wage increase. It is important that workers get their fair part of productivity increases. We support our affiliates in all actions they will take in the next days and weeks to come to a satisfying collective bargaining result.”