General Strike on 4 February: Millions of People Stop Work for Tekel Workers

Millions of members of six union confederations join the general strike to support Tekel workers in their struggle for job security and take action against the pressure imposed to the workers.  Türk-İş President Kumlu repeated the request to protect the workers’ employee personal rights.

According to a joint decision taken by six union confederations, millions of workers stopped work today (4 February) from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm to support the workers from the closed-down Tekel leaf tobacco factory.

Turkish Confederation of Labour Unions (Türk-İş), the Hak Workers Union Confederation (Hak-İş), the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Civil Servant Unions Confederation (MEMUR-SEN), the Public Workers Unions Confederation of Turkey (KAMU-SEN), and the Confederation of Trade Unions of Public Employees (KESK) took the joint decision for a general strike.  The reason for this large-scale action is the government’s insistence on employing the workers of the recently closed-down Tekel leaf tobacco factory as “temporary personnel.”

“The Tekel workers’ achievement is an achievement for the Turkish people”

DİSK President Süleyman Çelebi said in a sit-down strike one day before the general strike: “The achievements of the Tekel workers are in fact an achievement for Turkish people.  The Tekel workers are Turkey’s conscience.  We call on everybody who has conscience to show solidarity to the Tekel workers and join their protest.”

“The government should not miss this opportunity”

KAMU-SEN General Director Akyıldız announced in a press conference on Wednesday (3 February) that the general strike is a serious warning and that the government should not miss out on this opportunity.

“This system means lack of security, lack of severance pay, lack of unionization, and poorly paid workers who can be laid off at any time.  Even for civil servants security is being eliminated.  Finally, workers have started to wake up — the labour power that was oppressed for years, was despised, and still showed patience and common sense.  Thus, it is no surprise that the Prime Minister is accused of using the workers with a malevolent attitude towards the unions.”

“We are on strike; we will show the workers’ determination”

KESK declared: “The political power acted on the assumption that nobody would advocate for the Tekel workers who were carelessly made redundant.  Tekel workers lighted a torch to enlighten the darkness of years.  We will not have that torch extinguished.  We will show the workers’ determination once more with the solidarity strike on 4 February.”

The Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), and the Turkey Union of Chambers of Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) declared their support for the strike.

“4C is not the issue”

In a speech in the morning of 4 February in front of the Türk-İş building in Ankara, Türk-İş President Mustafa Kumlu called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to pay the Tekel workers a visit:

Please come here and see what is happening.  See the way of life of the Tekel workers and listen to them for once.  Witness their determination — and I promise you that we will welcome you with a warm applause.

Kumlu reiterated that the actual issue is not 4C but the request to protect the workers’ employee personal rights and transfer the workers to public enterprises with their former status.

Nationwide support

The general strike gushes like a flood of solidarity through the whole country, protest actions being organized all over Turkey.

In Istanbul, two protest marches with thousands of participants are on their way to meet at Saraçhane Park on the European side.  DİSK members from several districts are meeting in Kadıköy on the Anatolian side of the city.

Supporters in Ankara met for a protest march approaching the meeting point from three different directions to continue together.  The demonstration culminated in the speech made by Türk-İş president Kumlu.

Further protest actions are being carried out in major cities of the country such as İzmir, Adana, Diyarbakır, and Antakya.

This article was first published by the BİA News Agency on 4 February 2010; it is reproduced here for no-profit educational purposes.  
See, also, “Turkey — GENERAL STRIKE!” (, 4 February 2010); “Her yerde grev her yerde direniş — YENİLENİYOR” (, 4 February 2010); and “Halk grevi başladı: Batıkent metrosuna binlerce yolcu parasız bindi” (, 4 February 2010).

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