Social Dialogue matters
As in a lot of countries, the 1st of may will be celebrated as the day of labour in Turkey too. The last couple of years, the 1st of May was a highly symbolic day of action in Turkey as the history of this day is filled with blood and police repression. The centre of action: the Istanbul Taksim square. The AKP government tried to pacify the 1st of May by letting the unions demonstrate on the Taksim square and declaring the day an official holiday for all Turkish workers. Let’s see what the 1st of May 2012 will bring for Turkey.
From a bloody history to a ‘historical declaration’ in 2011
The symbolic nature of the Labour Day in Turkey is directly linked to the events on Taksim square on the 1st of May 1977. When thousands of people gathered at the square to listen to speeches of the then DISK president, Kemal Türkel, several demonstrators were killed by gunshots from the nearby Marmara hotel. The panic which followed and the gunshots from the buildings caused the death of 36 demonstrators. The precise circumstances of these events are up until now unknown.
Ever since, the no demonstrations are allowed on the Taksim square on the Labour Day and in the aftermath of the military intervention of 1980, any kind of demonstration on labour was prohibited. This era nevertheless came to an end. In 2010, protestors were allowed to enter the Taksim square and in 2011 they even organized a massive demonstration on the square (link). All union confederations, except for Kamu-Sen, even managed to agree on list of common demands (here). This list of demands even referred to the Kurdish issue which is not an easy subject for all signing confederations.
1st of May 2012: a divided labour movement
Nevertheless, in 2012 a common declaration seems to be difficult. According to recent news, DISK and KESK are mobilizing to demonstrate on the Taksim square together with some parties on the left like ESP, TKP, EMEP, ÖDP, BDP and the halkevleri (Birgün). Yet, Türk-Is, Hak-Is, Memur-Sen & Kamu-Sen sent out a joint declaration in which they mobilize their rank-and-file to demonstrate in Izmir for Türk-Is & Kamu-Sen, and Ankara for Hak-Is and Memur-Sen (Sol Haber, Zaman, Memur-Sen, Hak-Is). The unity of 2011 which was appreciated by the ETUC, is therefore complete history (link). The 2012 situation confirms the political divisions between the different confederations.
Further, the fact that only the leftist organizations and unions are mobilizing on the Taksim square, could mean that policy violence will yet again be dominant in Istanbul on the Labour Day. Before 2010, Labour Day in Istanbul was known for its hard clashes between demonstrators and policy around the Taksim square. 2010 and 2011 were very calm as the demonstrations were organized by a broad coalition of civil society organization.