Türkiye

Turkey is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for working people

credits photo Mert CAN BUKLUMEZ / Middle East Images via AFP

May Day 2023 demonstrations in Istanbul, Türkiye, led to clashes between police and protestors, many of whom were arrested. The workers’ protests focused on the continuing cost-of-living crisis, as well as the exploitative labour practices that are endemic in Türkiye, one of the worst countries in the world for working people.

For years, the freedoms and rights of Turkish workers have been relentlessly attacked. Civil liberties have been crushed and trade unions and their members have been systematically targeted, particularly through prosecution on fabricated charges.

Employers continued to engage in union busting by methodically dismissing workers who attempted to unionise. In a climate of fear and under the constant threat of retaliation, workers struggled to unite and form unions.

Trade union leader shot

On 12 February 2024, as he was visiting the Akar Tekstil factory, Makum Alagöz, President of the Leather Weaving and Textile Workers’ Union (DERITEKS), was shot in the leg. Alagöz, who had been called in to negotiate unpaid wages and benefits, following the factory’s declaration of insolvency, was attacked by Onur Akar, the brother of Akar Tekstil-owner Hayrettin Akar. While Alagöz escaped with minor injuries, the assault was a chilling reminder of a hostile anti-union climate.

Health worker union members’ trial

Türkiye’s Health and Social Service Workers Union (SES) has been on trial due to its trade union activities since May 2021. The current and former co-presidents, Selma Atabey and Gonul Erden, were arrested after a dawn raid on the union’s office and the two women were charged with terrorism. The pair have since been released, because of international and national solidarity campaigns, but several other union activists remain under house arrest and criminal charges against them remain active.

Ahead of a court hearing on 2 October 2023, unions representing millions of workers shared solidarity messages on social media, demanding that the Ministry of Justice drop all the charges. At the hearing, the judge merely postponed proceedings to 20 December, prompting the union to announce it would not give up until all the unionists were freed.