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EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee: Trade Union Rights Situation in Turkey

The trade union rights situation has been a standing item on the agenda of the EU-Turkey JCC since its 18th meeting in The Hague in 2004. The EU-Turkey JCC has discussed the trade union rights situation in Turkey several times, and one milestone in the work of the EU-Turkey JCC in analysing the trade union rights situation was the joint report by Mr R. Işik and Mr T. Etty presented at the 22nd JCC meeting held in Brussels in 2007. Two new and extensive reports on the trade union rights situation were prepared by the co-rapporteurs Mr Işik and Mr Boyle in 2008.

The JCC underlined that the issue of trade union rights would remain high on its agenda, and followed up on this decision by mandating the co-rapporteurs Mr R. Işik and Ms A. van Wezel to prepare an update to the 2008 joint report. A first draft of the updated report was presented to the 29th EU-Turkey JCC in 2012 and it was decided to postpone a full discussion in order to include the anticipated legislation in the JCC’s considerations. It was also decided that the working process of the co-rapporteurs Prof. Işik and Ms van Wezel would involve conducting a full consultation with all social partners and the government after reviewing the new legislation.

During this new mandate, new legislation was enacted by the Parliament starting with amendments to the constitution. Accordingly, in September 2010 the amendment to the constitution cleared the way for replacing the Act on Public Servants’ Trade Unions and Collective Agreement (Act No 4688) by Act No 6289 in April 2012 . Furthermore, on 18 October 2012 the Turkish Grand National Assembly adopted the Act on Trade Unions and Collective Labour Agreements No 6356, replacing the two previous Acts 2821 and 2822.

The previous acts 2821 and 2822 originated in the period of military rule, and fell short of the requirements of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 and the European Social Charter. Turkey ratified the conventions in 1993 and 1952 respectively. As it is known, these conventions guarantee the rights of workers and employers to establish organisations of their own choosing to defend their interests collectively: convention 87 protects freedom of association and the right to organise, while convention 98 protects the right to collective bargaining for the social partners. ILO Conventions 87 and 98 are also part of the EU acquis and their implementation is one of the benchmarks for the opening of Chapter 19 on social policy and employment. The government of Turkey has indicated that the intention of the new legislation is to align its laws with the ILO conventions and the European Social Charter .

The two co-rapporteurs conducted their consultation mission on 18-19 December 2012. They spoke with all social partners, both within and outside the JCC, and employers’ and workers’ organisations in both the private and public sectors. They also spoke with government representatives closely involved in the drafting of the Act on Trade Unions and Collective Labour Agreements No 6356, and representatives of the ILO and of the European Union Delegation to Turkey. All of these consultations were conducted separately in order to receive the most accurate and unbiased opinions from the social partners.

The co-rapporteurs greatly appreciate the openness of all the interviewees and thank them for their frankness. They shared insider information on the process of negotiation and on their own positions, and spoke freely on their assessment of the new laws and their expectations concerning implementation. By doing so they allowed the co-rapporteurs to identify perceived progress, but also to identify areas where future problems might be expected.

This report, submitted to the 32nd EU-Turkey JCC meeting in Brussels, presents the co-rapporteurs’ findings.

Please click to download the full report.