Industrial Relations in Turkey

Social Dialogue matters

50% Threshold

Collective bargaining and collective agreements in Turkey are heavily regulated by the state (Law No. 6356). In order for unions to eligible negotiate and conclude collective agreements they need to represent at least 50% +1 of the workers in the company and 3% of the workers in the sector, nationwide (previously this was 10%). Another stipulation mentions that the threshold will be lowered to 1% until 2016 for the unions which are members of one the three large confederations represented in the Ecomic and Social Council (Türk-Is, Hak-Is and DISK).

For the second threshold (company level), an exception is made for workplaces which for establishments encompassing all workplaces of a single country (Celik, 2012, p. 5).

This rule is commonly named the ‘double threshold’ and is criticized by many for different reasons:

  1. Few collective agreements & low unionization: A first straightforward consequence of this regulation is that Turkey counts relatively few company level collective agreements. As in many companies the threshold of 50% is hard to achieve for unions, they cannot make legally binding collective agreements. This consequently makes it hard for unions to recruit members as the workers don’t perceive any ‘added value’ of union membership. Moreover, with a unionization rate of around 6%, few sectors have unions that represent more than 3% of the employees working in the sector. This forms a clear obstacle to the further development of unionization in Turkey
  2. Low intra-firm union competition and yellow unions: once a union meets the double threshold, they have a virtual monopoly on the union activities in the company. As they can conclude collective agreements, company workers have a clear benefit of joining the union and a clear disincentive to join a different, competing union. Consequently, many companies in Turkey are virtually ‘closed shops’ in which one single union is active and about all employees are member of that union. The union official of these unions are subsequently in close contact with the company management and easily become a sort of ‘yellow union’.
  3. Fierce competition between unions: Although the intra-firm competition is lowered in companies in which one union meets the double threshold, the competition between unions in companies without a single dominant union is enhanced. In these companies unions have a great incentive to aggressively recruit members or convince members of other unions to change their affiliation.
  4. Stabilization of the Türk-Is dominance: Thanks to the strict double regulation, established unions have a great comparative advantage over new unions. This results in the stabilization and securitization of the dominant position of the Türk-Is affiliated unions. As Türk-Is almost wasn’t affected by the 1980 military intervention (in contrast to DISK and in a lesser extent to Hak-Is), their affiliates have dominant positions in many firms. Thanks to the doublethreshold, their dominant position is secured.

Sources & Further Reading:

Bakir, E., Tasiran, A. C., & Taymaz, E. (2009). Quality of work and employment, industrial relations and restructuring in Turkey. Dublin: Eurofound.

Katsu, S., Vorkink, A., Gray, C., Otoo, S., & Verghis, M. (2006). Turkey Labour Market Study. Document of the World Bank, World Bank.

Sural, A. N. (2007). A Pragmatic Analysis of Social Dialogue in Turkey. Middle Eastern Studies , 43 (1), 143-152.

Sural, A. N. (2006). Evolving Structure of Collective Bargaining in Turkey (1990-2005). Middle Eastern Studies , 42 (6), 965-996.

Last update: August 23, 2013

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