Industrial Relations in Turkey

Social Dialogue matters

Agreement on a new ‘Unions and Collective Agreement Law’ in the Turkish Parliament

On 18 October 2012, the Turkish parliament voted the long awaited ‘Unions and Collective Bargaining law’. This law replaces the post-80’s coup ‘trade union law’ (link) and ‘collective agreement, strike and lock-out law’ (link). These old laws face regular criticism by Turkish and International labour organisations, the EU and the ILO. The new law should modernize the collective labour relations in Turkey and make the Turkish legislation in line with EU and ILO standards. The ITUC nevertheless released a statement on the 10th of October 2012 stating that the new law does not meet up to the expectations of the confederation (link).

Based on various press articles, here we explain what will change under the new legislation in terms of the right to strike, collective bargaining, the freedom of union organizing and the legal obstacles for becoming a union member. An agreement was reached in the parliament on this legislation. Nevertheless, the bill still has to be signed by President Gül.

Right to strike

The current limitations to the right to strike in Turkey would be prolonged. Consequently, employees in the following sectors wouldn’t have a right to organize a strike:

  1. Life or property saving;
  2. Funeral and mortuary;
  3. Production of coal for water, electricity, gas and coal power plants; exploration, production, refining and
  4. distribution of natural gas and petroleum; petrochemical works, production of which starts from naphtha or natural gas;
  5. Banking and public notaries;
  6. Firefighting, aviation, land, sea, railway urban public transportation, and other public transportation on rail.

Collective Bargaining

Many discussions focus on the issue of the infamous ‘double threshold’ for collective bargaining. Under the current law, a union needs to represent at least 50% of the workers in the establishment level and 10% at the industry level, nationwide, before it could legally sign a collective agreement. This will change. Various alternative thresholds have been discussed.

According to the latest news, the threshold will be fixed at 3%, opening the collective agreement rights to about 650 thousand workers in Turkey. On the company level, a union should represent at least 40% of the workers in order to rightfully conclude collective agreements (link).

The amount of official ‘industries’ is furthermore reduced from 28 to 20. Further, sectoral collective agreements can be negotiated and made generally applicable for unionized and non-unionized workplaces.

Becoming a union member

Becoming a union member is becoming somewhat easier under the new law. The minimum age for joining a union is lowered from 16 to 15 years.

Joining a union will be easier under the new legislation. A notary act is not needed anymore. Workers can apply for membership through a website and their application will be automatically approved after 30 in case the labour union doesn’t refuse the application. Leaving the union will also be handled through the website.

Employees cannot join two different unions in the same industry, at the same time. On the other hand, the new law allows workers who work for different employers, in the same industry, to become member of different unions. Although this seems trivial, in combination with the 40%-3% threshold, this regulation seriously inhibits free competition between unions in companies.

Union organizing

The new law, just as the old one, still bans certain types of union organizing. As such ‘occupation based’ unionism remains illegal, just as union organizing for certain employees like the staff working in the ministry of defence (link).

Publication date: October 19, 2012


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This entry was posted on October 19, 2012 by in 50/10 threshold, Social Dialogue, Strike, Uncategorized.
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