At the request of DİSK- Birleşik Metal İş Union - ICLR sent a labor delegation to Turkey from April 18-22, 2015 to investigate the denial of the right to freedom of association of metal workers in the automobile industry in Bursa, an industrial city near Istanbul. The delegation included Ramapriya Gopalakrishnan, an Indian labor lawyer, Thomas Schmidt, the General Secretary of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, Angela Cornell, a Cornell University law professor and Susan Adely, a U.S. labor lawyer.
The delegation interviewed workers from several manufacturing plants including two Bosch plants. The issues raised in the interviews included: (1) the inability of workers to choose a union that represents their interests because of numerous legal and employer-generated obstacles; (2) retaliation in the workplace for supporting the DISK union and for engaging in union-related activity; and (3) strike-related terminations and the inadequacy of the remedy for these firings.
During the military coup in 1980, members of DİSK- Birleşik Metal İş were transferred to another union supported by the new military regime, Turk Metal. Turk Metal, the largest union in Turkey maintains considerable support from management interests. The Turkish metal workers have struggled for years for the right to democratically choose their bargaining representatives. Turkish labor law and employer retaliation against union-related activity have undermined the ability of Turkish workers to organize and be represented by the union of their choice. Employer-supported “yellow” unions have imperiled freedom of expression. This year there have been several waves of significant strike activity in the metal sector (including in the Renault and Bosch plants) as workers have tried to more aggressively pursue union representation of their choice in the automobile sector.
The delegation held a press conference regarding its observations about violations of international labor standards and violations of Turkish law. The delegates also cited the ways in which Turkish laws regarding procedures to register unions hinder workers from exercising freedom of association. A number of Turkish newspapers carried reports of the press conference. A report of the delegation’s findings is being prepared.
Check this website for the release of the report.