Turkey is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for working people
Brutal repression of strikes
In 2021, the government of Turkey continued to impose severe restrictions on civil liberties, and workers’ freedoms and rights were relentlessly denied with police crackdowns on protests, while trade union leaders were arbitrarily arrested and their homes raided.
Employers engaged in systematic union-busting by methodically dismissing workers who attempted to organise, especially in the metal, glass, leather and plastic industries.
Workers' rights violations
Right to free speech and assembly
In Turkey, on May Day the Istanbul police blockaded the DİSK Confederation Central Office in İstanbul in the early morning hours and arrested DISK president Arzu Çerkezoğlu, DISK general secretary Adnan Serdaroğlu and twenty-five members of DISK. The confrontation took place as police blocked the march to Istanbul's Taksim Square, using the COVID-19 curfew as a pretext. The trade unionists were released later in the afternoon. It was the third time the leaders had been arrested that year.
Violent attacks on workers
On 24 November 2020, Turkish police cracked down on members of Birlesik Metal-Is union, which had organised a march from Gebze to Ankara to protest the unfair dismissal of workers in several companies and the use of COVID-19 as an excuse to single out trade union members for unpaid leave. A massive police presence prevented the start of the march, and a hundred and nine members of Birlesik Metal-Is were taken into police custody. Video footage of the arrests shows extensive police brutality in the process.
Right to justice
On the morning of 6 November 2020, the police raided the homes of several members of the Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim-Sen), in the Kurdish-majority province of Diyarbakır, detaining twenty-six teachers. The raids were conducted as part of an investigation opened by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on undisclosed grounds. The police also searched the cabinets of teachers in their schoolrooms, while the teachers were taken to Diyarbakır Security Directorate.
In Turkey, unions have long been faced with employers’ discriminatory tactics aimed at avoiding union formation in the workplace. The most common practice is to fire enough union members to bring the numbers below the recognition threshold. In the metal industry, Özer Elektrik, an electrical appliances producer, fired ten union members before Birleşik Metal-İş, which had organised the majority of workers in the company, could apply for certification to the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services in July 2020. In addition, Özer Elektrik called security forces to disperse union members who had gathered to protest. Union leaders were taken into custody to frighten the workers away from union membership.
Similarly, in August 2020, shortly before Türk Metal filed its petition for recognition, cable manufacturer Ünal Kablo fired 31 union members, bringing the numbers below the threshold. Another union, Özçelik-İş, applied for collective bargaining certification at Sampa Otomotiv, showing that it represented a majority of workers. The company responded by dismissing 71 union members.
Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes
On 24 November 2020, Turkish police cracked down on members of Birlesik Metal-Is union, which had organised a march from Gebze to Ankara to protest the unfair dismissal of workers in several companies as well as the use of COVID-19 as an excuse to single out trade union members for unpaid leave. A massive police presence prevented the start of the march, and 109 members of Birlesik Metal-Is were taken into police custody. Video footage of the arrests shows extensive police brutality in the process.