Industrial Relations in Turkey

Social Dialogue matters

Deadlock in collective bargaining in Turkey

Official membership statistics on Union membership are vital for the Turkish labour unions as they determine whether or not they are eligble to negotiate and sign collective agreements (more information here). For this reason, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (CSGB) publishes official statistics on trade union membership every 6 months. At least, it did until 2009. Since then, upcoming statistical updates were delayed due to a conflict between the unions and the government and upcoming new legislation.

Old threshold, new statistics

The Turkish legislation includes a double threshold for collective bargaining. Unions need to represent at least 50% of the employees in the concerned company and 10% of the employees in the sector nationwide before they can officially negotiate and sign collective agreements. The official membership statistics are therefore essential for the unions as they determine whether or not a union can ‘deliver’ towards its rank-and-file. Nevertheless, the statistics published by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (CSGB) are since ages known for its unreliability. According to these official figures, the overall unionization rate would be around 50%, while in reality about 6% of the workers are unionized in Turkey (more information here).

Accordingly, the ministry decided to update and correct its official statistics. Hereby, official trade union membership would decline from over 3 million workers to about 930.000 workers in one day (source). Consequently, various unions would lose their collective bargaining rights. According to a statement of the CSGB ministry of January 2012, the new statistics would grant collective bargaining rights to 11 Türk-Is affiliates, 1 Hak-Is affiliate and no DISK affiliates at all (source).

As the ‘double threshold’ legislation is regularly criticized by the unions themselves, by the EU and international organizations; plans are being made to change the legislation and lower the thresholds to more ‘normal’ levels. The combination of new statistics and new legislation wouldn’t affect the collective bargaining in Turkey radically. The new legislation is still ‘under construction’ and conflicts are present on the level of the new thresholds.

As an intermediary solution, the AKP government thus decided to postpone the ‘new statistics’, until the ‘new legislation’ is put into practice. This happened 2010. No new legislation has passed since, and no new statistics have been published. The 2010 decision postponed the publication of the official statistics for 2 years. As these two years have passed, the problem resurges. The Hak-Is labour union confederations objects against a new postponement of the new statistics which leads to a renewed crisis. Postponing the new statistics is disproportionally favourable for the established unions, which are mostly linked to the Türk-Is confederation.

According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (source), about 550.000 workers could end up without a collective agreement (and thus without a pay rise) if no solution is found any time soon.

No statistics, but new collective agreements?

Recently, the Birlesik Metal-Is president stated that they wouldn’t take the risk of not having a collective agreement and would push forward with the negotiation of a collective agreement, even without an official authorization. If no authorization is given by the ministry, strike actions will be organized (source).

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