No guarantee of rights

Same as last year


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

  • Repression of strikes
  • Arrests of trade unionists
  • Systematic union busting

Workers' rights violations

In 2023, workers’ freedoms and rights continued to be relentlessly attacked, with police cracking down on protests, and trade union leaders arbitrarily arrested.

In addition, employers continued to engage in systematic union busting by methodically dismissing workers who attempted to organise.

Violent attacks on workers

Private school teachers gathered in Ankara, Turkey, on 30 August 2022 to protest low wages and poor working conditions. The demonstration was organised by the Private Sector Teachers’ Union, which has nearly 4,000 members in 60 provinces of the country.

The teachers attempted to march to the Ministry of National Education. Police surrounded and blocked them, and used pepper spray on the teachers when they insisted on marching. Seven people, including two lawyers, were detained during the incidents.

Right to civil liberties

Şebnem Korur-Fincancı, President of the Turkish Medical Association, was imprisoned on 27 October 2022 under Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law for “propagandising for a terrorist organisation” and “publicly degrading the Turkish Nation, the state of the Republic and its institutions” because of her comments in the media about the allegations that Turkey used chemical gases during its military operations in Iraq and for which she called for an independent investigation.

Five members of KESK, who tried to attend the Court Hearing as observers, were arrested but later released.

Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office has also asked that Şebnem Korur-Fincancı be suspended from her duties. Removal from office would be a clear and unacceptable interference in the freedom of trade unions to organise their own activities and structures.

Şebnem Korur-Fincancı is a forensic expert with decades of experience in anti-torture work. She has been persecuted for her activism on multiple occasions and was previously arrested in 2016 for supporting a freedom of the press campaign.

Right to civil liberties

On 4 July 2022, eight leaders of the SES, the Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services, including their President Gönül Erden, stood trial on terrorism offences as a result of their union activities.

Evidence used against the union officials was that they had been organising public gatherings, handing out trade union materials and organising meetings between colleagues, which are all normal trade union activities.

The overall case was based on the testimony of an anonymous witness who has given evidence against at least 350 individuals. Much of the evidence was spurious at best, and cited Gönül Erden’s attendance as a guest at the UK-based trade union UNISON conference 2018 as evidence for the terrorism charges she faces.

Right to civil liberties

On 26 February 2023, the Deputy General Secretary of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK), Fahrettin Engin Erdoğan, was among the union leaders and members detained at a protest in Istanbul.

The protest was organised by the DISK and the Confederation of Public Employees’ Trade Unions (KESK) over reports of corruption hampering efforts to help victims of the country’s recent earthquake.

Members of both unions were among more than 100 people detained.

Union busting

Around 180 members of the Turkish Paper and Wood Industry Workers Union (AGAC-IS) were illegally dismissed by ASD Laminat on 2 July 2022. The dismissals were carried out as part of a retaliatory measure implemented by the company, after the union won a recent court decision affirming its right to organise and bargain collectively.

In 2017, AGAC-IS organised an overwhelming majority of workers at the ASD Laminat factory in Düzce, Turkey. The union then successfully obtained legal authority from the Ministry of Labour to enter into collective bargaining with the company. ASD Laminat responded by filing a court case against the union.

After five years, the court issued a ruling confirming the union’s right to organise and bargain collectively. Instead of engaging in social dialogue, ASD Laminat resorted to harassing and illegally firing unionists to dissuade workers from supporting the union.

The workers went on strike on 27 October in protest of the years of union busting by ASD.

Union busting

In Bursa, Turkey, 10 women workers were laid off in Barutçu Tekstil, a textile factory, after they joined trade union Öz İplik-İş in 2022. The company claimed the layoffs were part of a downsizing operation and not due to the workers’ union membership. However, the dismissals occurred only two days after the workers decided to join the trade union.

The vast majority of workers at Barutçu Tekstil are women. They are forced to do overtime and do not receive proper break times. Although the law prescribes the organisation to provide daycare at the factory, this obligation has never been met.

The dismissed workers immediately organised a sit-in to demand their reinstatement but after 111 days of protest, the management of the factory still refused to heed their request.

Union busting

Workers at the Philip Morris factory in İzmir, Turkey, were paid less than the poverty threshold and suffered from discrimination between permanent and subcontracted workers, despite the fact that they performed the same tasks. As a result of these difficulties, almost all the company’s workers became members of the DİSK/Gıda-İş Union. Following the union meetings and actions, 124 workers were sacked. Workers organised picket lines in front of the factory. However, the company continued to refuse to negotiate.

Workers excluded from labour protections

Under Turkish law, senior public employees, magistrates and prison guards were excluded from the right to organise.

Right to collective bargaining

In September 2022, workers at the ETF Tekstil factory in Istanbul, Turkey, organised a picket outside the factory to protest the management’s decision to close operations at the end of July without prior negotiations with the workers’ representatives. Citing a financial crisis, the employer refused to pay the more than 300 workers according to the collective agreement. Workers at the factory are covered by a collective agreement, which entitles them to bonuses, severance and notice payment, and annual leave. The employer offered to pay 70 per cent of the severance pay, which was rejected by the union. Since then, there has been no further engagement from the employer.

Right to collective bargaining

The Turkish Wood and Paper Industry Workers’ Union (AGAC-IS) went on strike on 27 October 2022 as a response to the longstanding union busting and other labour rights violations carried out by ASD Laminat, a Turkish wood processing company infamous for its anti-union policies.

The company notoriously refused to recognise the trade union formed by workers, targeting and dismissing all its workers in the last five years. It also refused to engage in collective bargaining.

In June 2022, after a five-year legal battle, a court ordered ASD Laminat to start negotiations with the union. But instead of following the court order, ASD Laminat summarily dismissed 180 workers, all members of the union.

Şebnem Korur Fincancı, head of the Turkish Medical Association, celebrates her release from prison. In 2023, union leaders were arbitrarily arrested and other rights attacked, making Turkey one of the 10 worst countries for working people.Ozan Kose / AFP

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