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Turkey on the Streets for Tekel Workers


Tens of thousands of people used their right not to work for one day and supported the struggle of the Tekel workers in a general strike.  For Türk-İş President Kumlu it was a successful protest action withstanding the pressure of officials and employers.

Turkish Confederation of Labour Unions (Türk-İş) President Mustafa Kumlu reckoned the general strike on Thursday (4 February) a success.

Confederations discuss how to proceed

Representatives of the six union confederations that took the joint decision for a general strike will meet today (5 February) at the Public Workers Unions Confederation to discuss how to proceed after yesterday’s major protest action.  Members of the Civil Servants Unions Confederation (MEMUR-SEN) joined the general strike only to some extent; a considerable part of the members did not participate.

“Successful despite the pressure”

Türk-İş President Kumlu said in an announcement: “The protest action to use our right not to work was a success despite the pressure and the threats of the governorship, the bureaucrats and the employers.”  Kumlu added that according to information given by representatives from provinces and districts, Tekel workers were supported by tens of thousands of people.

“The government should get the message”

Kumlu expressed his gratitude to the organizations that took part in the protest action and boosted it with their support.  The confederation president argued, “Türk-İş wants the government to understand well the message of this action and to accomplish what is necessary.  Türk-İş points out the necessity in respect to the social conscience to solve the workers’ problems as soon as possible.”

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) decided for a general strike because of the government’s insistence to employ the workers of the recently closed-down Tekel leaf tobacco factory as “temporary personnel.”

Erdoğan did not get the message

In the course of a press conference in Ankara Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the general strike as “unjust” and “ideological.”  He signalized that the government is not going to change its position.  Previously, the government stuck to the “temporary employment” model and had suggested to improve the regulation’s conditions.

Government misled the public

Erdoğan misled the public by claiming the resistance of the Tekel workers to be “illegal” and an “occupation.”  He pronounced that the government is going to intervene against the workers in front of the Türk-İş head office by the end of this month.

The Ankara Governor Kemal Önal threatened civil servants right before the general strike with a writing stating that the protest action was “illegal” and participants would have to face consequences.

KESK Legal Advisor Oya Aydın gave the all-clear and said that both the general strike and the Tekel workers’ resistance in Ankara were in line with the law.  Aydın told bianet that Turkey was convicted by the European Court of Human Rights for similar incidents in the past and also referred to the Constitution.

Enormous support all over the country

In Istanbul, 15,000 people demonstrated for the interests of the Tekel workers on the European side only, another couple of thousand people gathered on the Anatolian side in Kadıköy.  KESK President Semi Evren and DİSK President Süleyman Çelebi called the Prime Minister to come together with the unions to solve the problems of the workers in respect to unionization rights.

In Ankara, Office Workers Union (BES) members employed at the State Council and Anatolian Agency (AA) workers stopped working as well.  Union members, members and executives of political parties, staff of magazines and non-governmental organizations showed their solidarity with the Tekel workers.

In Izmir, public bus service was out of service till 2.00 pm.  Public service was temporarily abandoned.  Thousands of protestors gathered at the central Konak Square.  Kundakçı from Türk-İş addressed the Prime Minister: “If you take down our sings, we will take down AKP’s signs”; Tekel worker Şengül pronounced, “We struggle for the future of our children.”

Further protest actions were carried out in major cities all over the country such as Sakarya and Tekirdağ in the north-west, Zonguldak, Samsun and Rize spanning from the western to the eastern tip of the Black Sea coast, Amasya and Tokat in central Anatolia, Denizli and Didim in the southern Aegean region, Mersin at the southern tip of the Mediterranean Sea and Batman in the south-east of the country.

450 TEKEL workers agreed to a 4C transfer

According to data given by the Ministry of Labour, 450 Tekel workers agreed to a transfer under the 4C regulation.  The government data shows more than 8,000 workers in the context of the Tekel leaf tobacco factory.  The data furthermore revealed that as of the present day 6,120 workers have taken their severance pay.

Cabinet took official decision

The cabinet’s latest decision regarding “temporary personnel” employment in public enterprises was published in the Offical Gazette on the day of the general strike.

This year a total of 36,215 workers are assigned to 18 ministries, two general directorates, and several universities to work under the 4C regulation of the Civil Servants Act.

The decision also reflects the improvements previously proposed to Tekel workers within 4C, namely a maximum work duration of eleven months per year, a maximum of 22 days of paid leave, and severance pay.

Click here to visit a photo gallery of the general strike.

This article was first published by the BİA News Agency on 5 February 2010; it is reproduced here for no-profit educational purposes.
See, also, “Tekel işçileri süresiz açlık grevine başlıyor” (, 5 February 2010).

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