Almost 6,000 workers, members of the Kristal-İş glass union, are not leaving the factories of multinational glass manufacturer Şişecam at the end of their shifts.
This remarkable action comes after the Turkish government banned legitimate strike action in a dispute over wages and other working conditions. Şişecam has increased its profits by 164 per cent, but not made a serious wage offer.
When IndustriALL affiliate Kristal-İş announced its intention to strike on 24 May, the Turkish government issued a decree banning the strike, on the grounds of national security. The union believes the banning comes at the request of the company, which refuses to come to the bargaining table for serious negotiations.
Nine Şişecam factories across Turkey are organized by Kristal-İş, and union members are taking the action of not leaving their workplaces in all the nine.
The workers are not breaching legislation with their conduct. By working to rule, slowing down production from time to time, and not leaving their factories, they are sending a strong message of resistance to the company and government, and building popular support.
The factories run three shifts. At the end of each shift, instead of going home, the workers hold demonstrations and meetings before sleeping on site. Workers have erected tents in the factory grounds, or bedded down in the canteen.Workers’ families and communities are showing full support for the actions. Small business owners in the workers’ districts have expressed their support, and mosques have provided food. Opposition political parties and local politicians have also backed the occupation.
Workers at other enterprises have taken solidarity action, including other IndustriALL affiliates, because the growing repression of unions in Turkey affects all workers.
Kristal-İş general president Bilal Cetintas said:“Just because we asked for a wage to live, this global giant wants to punish and deny us our share of the company that we created, that exports goods to hundreds of countries.
“We didn't bow, we went on strike, and they knew we had the right. The went to the government behind our backs to use anti-democratic methods to suppress our rights.”
IndustriALL Global Union and IndustriAll Europe general secretaries, Valter Sanches and Luc Triangle, have written to the Turkish government to condemn the banning of the strike, as well as to Şişecam, calling on the company to negotiate with the union.
“We call on Şişecam to address the legitimate demands of the workers, refrain from any acts of intimidation, harassment, or retaliation, and, rather than using the government's ban decree as an excuse, you should instead engage in good-faith bargaining with Kristal-İş.”
Şişecam was founded in 1935, after Kemal Atatürk proposed the establishment of a glass industry in Turkey. The company has become one of the biggest glass producers in Europe.
“Glassworkers in Turkey have built a strong militant union tradition over the decades. These remarkable actions put their stamp on the agenda of Turkey today, uniting workers and communities,”
said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.
“IndustriALL expresses its determination to the world that Turkish glassworkers are not alone.
“They should continue to resist.”