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The trade UNION situation in Turkey (J.Monks)

The trade UNION situation in Turkey


Preparation for EU Membership


The position of the ETUC was defined at the Congress in

Seville in its Strategy and Action Plan, as follows:

The ETUC favours the accession of Turkey to the EU

provided it meets, in reality and not only on paper, the

requirements of membership and the provisions of the

EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. A transformation of

Turkish society with full rights and freedoms should be

sought and completed during the challenging process of



As far as Social and Employment Policy is concerned, the

European Commission and the Turkish government have been

engaged in discussions to open Chapter 19 on Social Policy

and Employment.


The EU has defined two benchmarks:


1. To provide the Commission with an action plan for

the gradual transposition, implementation and

enforcement throughout the country of the acquis (as

necessary) in each area covered by this chapter for the

benefit of the entire workforce. The action plan should

in particular focus on undeclared workers and include an

economic and social analysis of the substantial problem

of undeclared work in Turkey. The plan should also

include: a) a timetable of measures envisaged in each

area covered by this chapter; b) the identification of

financial and human resources allocated and of efforts

needed to reinforce them; c) the identification of the

institutions and social partners involved; d) the

identification of the institutions to be set up for the

gradual implementation and enforcement of the acquis,

including their mandate and status. For each of the

above steps, a gender mainstreaming approach needs

to be adopted, with particular attention to be given to

women’s participation in the labour market


2. To ensure that full trade UNION rights are respected

in line with EU standards and the relevant ILO

conventions, in particular as regards the right to

organise, the right to strike and the right to bargain

collectively. To this effect, Turkey needs to eliminate

existing restrictions and to adopt fully revised legislation

in this area for both private and public sectors.


The ETUC has been monitoring the situation with its four

Turkish affiliates and has been in touch with the Commission

on the issues.


As to the first benchmark, an Action Plan has been sent to

the European Commission. As to the second, proposals to

reform two laws (Trade UNIONs Act R11; Act No. 2821; Collective

Labour Agreement, Strike and Lock-out Act R11; Act No. 2822)

have been circulating within the Grand National Assembly of

Turkey, but no vote has been taken. Another proposal for the

public sector (Trade UNION Law for the Public Servants – Law

No. 4688) has not yet been circulated.


It had been expected that Chapter 19 would have been

opened during the Czech Presidency. However on 4 June 2009

Chief EU negotiator Egemen Bağıs was reported as saying that

labour UNION reforms were put on hold following talks with

representatives of employers’ and workers’ organizations.


 Attacks against KESK

The offices of KESK were recently raided by the Turkish

Gendarmerie. KESK property was confiscated, and a number

of KESK trade UNIONists were taken into police custody,

including Abdurrahman Dasdemir, the former General

Secretary, and two prominent women leaders, Songül

Morsümbül, a member of the KESK Executive Committee, and

Gülçin Isbert, a member of the Executive Committee of its

teachers’ UNION.


The ETUC wrote to Commissioners Rehn and Spidla on 29

May 2009, protesting against these intimidatory acts which

make it difficult for KESK to go about its normal trade UNION

activity and calling on the Commission to remain very vigilant

in its negotiations on Turkish membership of the EU, not only

as regards Chapter 19 on Social Policy and Employment, but

also as regards Chapter 23 on Judiciary and Fundamental


Civil Society Dialogue Project Bringing together workers from

Turkey and the EU through a shared culture of work


The aim of this project is to reinforce contacts and mutual

exchange of experience between the trade UNIONs of Turkey

and trade UNIONs of EU Member States, and through them,

their members, with a view to ensuring better knowledge and

understanding of one another and an awareness of the

opportunities and challenges of future enlargement. The

project has had to deal with a series of different challenges,

but it is now moving into a more dynamic phase.


A survey is in process. It aims to identify and address

existing impressions and prejudices that Turkish and EU

workers may have of each other, and a questionnaire has

been sent to 8,000 Turkish trade UNIONists and 8,000 EU trade

UNIONists. A report will be ready by the end of 2009.


The dates for the 12 Exchange and Mutual Understanding

Seminars with EU confederations and the 9 Sectoral Training

Seminars with European Industry Federations have now been

fixed. They will primarily be carried out during the Autumn of

2009. The first educational brochures are in preparation. The

contract has been extended by 6 months. The Final

Conference is scheduled for some time in March 2010.