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Public Holiday…Yes, but with or without gas?

In Ankara last Thursday, Minister of Labor and Social Security Faruk Çelik had a meeting with labor UNION representatives on the government’s attempt to declare May Day a public holiday. On behalf of the UNIONs, Mustafa Kumlu, Chairman of Confederation of Turkey Labor UNIONs (Türk-İş), Süleyman Çelebi, Chairman of Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ UNIONs (DİSK) and Salim Uslu, Chairman of Confederation of Turkish Real Trade UNIONs (HAK-İŞ) attended the meeting. Minister Çelik said they opened the draft law proposing the declaration of May Day as the Labor and Solidarity Day and a public holiday for all the working people for signature in the Council of Ministers.

R16;No more aggressive approach and days of horror’, he says so
Before the meeting Çelik said that in labor relations, days of aggressive approach are gone and that social state, social dialog and human-centric labor policies are being put into practice all over the world. Çelik argued that, “as a result of the reconciliatory approach, May Day is no longer a day of horror, but a day of solidarity for the workers and the laborers.”
Minister Çelik said they will try to issue the law before May Day this year; reporters asked whether Taksim will be opened for celebrations, Çelik replied, “the local administrations and administrative chiefs will decide on where and how May Day will be celebrated according to prevailing laws and regulation.”

What the hell is this public holiday in the days of crisis?
Minister Çelik had the meeting with the UNION leaders as per Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s instructions. In the press meeting held two days ago in AKP Istanbul Provincial Branch premises, Prime Minister Erdoğan said, “As you will remember, we had an attempt towards labor peace agreement last year. On Thursday our Minister will have a meeting with TÜRK-İŞ, HAK-İŞ and DİSK. He has already received my relative instructions. R16;I request you to talk with the workers’ UNIONs on this subject and discuss the matter about the declaration of May Day a public holiday with them.’ I said to him,” and “we want to pass the Trade UNION Law and Collective Bargaining Law as soon as possible in line with the European UNION membership process” he added.

In fact, instead of having “an attempt towards labor peace agreement” last year, Prime Minister accused the people who wanted to celebrate May Day in Taksim as provocateurs and pointed them as target. The draft law that proposed to declare May Day as the Labor and Solidarity Day was also opened for signature last year, but then was off the agenda. In AKP Group meeting Erdoğan had said, “There are people who expect us to declare this day a public holiday. Turkey is a country of so many public holidays. Number of working days in a year is 200. The others days are public holidays. If we make a calculation, a day costs us 2 quadrillion.”

What do the UNIONs that attended the meeting say?
The UNION leaders attending the meeting evaluated the situation as follows:
DİSK Chairman Süleyman Çelebi: The government’s attempt to declare May Day a public holiday is certainly an important development, but it is not enough. This is not a favor bestowed to us, but a right won at the end of the struggles. May Day celebrations that we are going to have in Taksim this year has an international significance. While Turkey report of the European UNION invites the government to a peaceful dialog with the UNIONs, a number of UNIONists from European workers’ UNIONs, including ITUC and ETUC and MP’s from the European Parliament will be with us on May Day.”

Türk-İş Chairman Mustafa Kumlu: “Last year, as we have been doing for so many years, we have conveyed to the Prime Minister our request as to declaration of May Day public holiday. Then, “You need to discuss this matter with the Labor Minister,” he said, we did but the result was negative. This year, hopefully, we will have a positive result. Taksim shouldn’t be an obsession. We don’t want the police and gendarme to meet head on with the workers. When you say “no- go” this draws a reaction. In order to eliminate this, we behaved persistently, as we did last year. We’ll sit and discuss. We want to celebrate May Day the way it deserves. And I need to add this: our main goal was the declaration of May Day a public holiday.

Hak-İş Chairman Salim Uslu: “May Day or Taksim Square must not be a phobia anymore. According to us, prohibition of Taksim is by no means acceptable. Prohibitions must be lifted and everybody must celebrate May Day wherever they want. For us the absolute must for May Day is celebrating it together, for this we can chose either Taksim or another place. Rather than the place, what kind of a message we shall give is more important.”

To refresh our memories: On May 1st, 1977 celebrations were attacked by the counter-guerilla, 38 people lost their lives, many were wounded. After September 12, 1980 coup, Taksim Square was closed for meetings, however permissions are given for many events such as police day celebrations, pop music concerts, victory celebrations of the football fans. As celebrating May Day at Istanbul’s Taksim Square has a symbolic meaning for the workers of Turkey, they still keep on their determined attitude on this issue. Their request was again rejected last year, leading to clashes with the police.