Social Dialogue matters
In October, the 2013 version of the European Union Progress Report on Turkey (link) was published. As every year, the Progress Report also included mentions to social dialogue issues.
Under chapter 19 (social policy and employment), the report criticizes Turkey for the fact that still about 40% of the workers work in the informal sector and consequently lack any protection provided by labour legislation. Child labour is still a given in Turkey as an estimated 5,9% of the Turkish minors are involved in economic activity. The issue of Health and Safety at work is addressed. The EU pressures Turkey to better enforce and implement existing legislation in the workplace. Here, the EU calls for a better involvement of social partners and professional organisations.
The new labour union act (enacted in November 2012, more information here) is welcomed by the EU as it clearly advances the situation of labour unions as compared to the previous legislation. Nevertheless, the EU still thinks that the proper functioning of social dialogue and industrial relations is hampered by remaining obstacles:
The report concludes that ‘some progress‘ was made and the the legal alignment ‘moderately advanced’.
All in all, the report is in line with previous EU progress reports. The topics of criticism are stable over time, yet small improvements are made year by year. We should nevertheless mention here that the foundation of the ‘Social and Economic Council’ (a tripartite social dialogue institution) was primarily caused by the continuous calls from the EU to do so. This was seen as a improvement of the social dialogue some years ago, but it seems now that this institution is fundamentally defect. There is a complete lack of information on when the meetings take place and what’s being discussed. Most probably (actually almost certainly) this council doesn’t meet. This case could be a reason for the EU to think about its strategy to promote social dialogue in Turkey. Forcing the establishment of high-level institutions while the willingness of all partners to invest in these institutions is lacking, did not turn out to be an effective strategy.
In this respect, the mention on the needed higher involvement of the social partners in policies on Health and Safety at the workplace can be part of a more effective strategy to stimulate social dialogue at the workplace level. Health and Safety at work is a primary concern of the Turkish labour unions and the immediate cause for a lot of industrial action in Turkey.