Industrial Relations in Turkey

Social Dialogue matters

Unified or divided? The Turkish labour unions on the 2013 labour day

The history of the 1st of May in Turkey is rough: From the blood of 1977 to the violence the early 2000 Taksim battles (see earlier blog). Yet, in recent years some unequivocally positive evolutions occurred. As such, the 1st of May was made an official public holiday in 2009. A year after union members were allowed to enter the Taksim square since years. This was followed in 2011 by a massive demonstration of a united front of labour unions on Taksim square including a ‘historical declaration’ of all major unions except Kamu-Sen. In 2012, the unions went separate ways. DISK and KESK marched to Taksim square, Türk-Is and Kamu-Sen demonstrated in Izmir while Hak-Is and Memur-Sen mobilized in Ankara.

2013: United or Divided?

Just as in 2012, the major Turkish labour unions didn’t manage to come to an agreement to organize a united front and mobilize together. The 6 major confederations came together for three times to come to an agreement (source). They quickly realized that an agreement on a common declaration was impossible. All confederations would make an individual 1st of may declaration.

In the process, both Memur-Sen and Kamu-Sen nevertheless detracted their participation. Kamu-Sen retracted their support for two main reasons. First as a reaction against KESK’s proposal only to include confederations that are ITUC members. Second because some confederations would make open references to the Kurdish question in the celebration (source). Memur-Sen also retracted their support and will mobilize in Canakkale (Zaman).

Although all private sector confederations joined the common 1st of May celebration, the events showed again that the Turkish labour movement is facing deep ideological divisiveness.

2013: Taksim?

DISK, KESK, Türk-Is, TBB and Hak-Is nevertheless decided to go along with the organization of a common demonstration in Taksim square. Yet, whether they will actually manage to demonstrate on the square itself is uncertain. Since some months construction works block the passage to Taksim square. Consequently, the governor of Istanbul declared that a demonstration on the Taksim square was impossible (Bianet). The organizing unions nevertheless decided to push on and are determined to demonstrate on the Taksim square (DISK).

Published: April 29, 2013

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