Industrial Relations in Turkey

Social Dialogue matters

Wikileaks on DISK

Thanks to the famous ‘Cablegate’ of Wikileaks, which published about 250.000 diplomatic correspondences of the US, we can get a unique insight in how the Turkish industrial relations and the Turkish labour organizations are perceived in the eyes of the diplomats. Using the website ‘’, we reviewed all the diplomatic communications regarding Turkish industrial relations issues.


A total of 43 US diplomatic cables have been leaked by wikileaks which treat the actions of the Turkish DISK union confederation. Most cables are press reviews which report DISK strikes, demonstrations and other activities. DISK is framed in the cables using various adjectives such as ‘revolutionary’, ‘leftist’ or even ‘communist’.


  • October 22, 2003 (Ankara Embassy – Report on anti-war protests): A anti-war rally with about 5000 participants was organized in Istanbul. Turk-Is, DISK and KESK were among the organizers.


  • January 13, 2003 (Adana Consulate – Press review): DISK signed a collective labour agreement foreseeing a 24% wage increase and 100% increase in fringe benefits for 1.112 Cukobirlik workers.
  • January 24, 2003 (Adana Consulate – Press review): DISK releases a anti-war statement in Diyarbakir. DISK president Suleyman Celebi declared to be in favor of the government’s anti-war attitudes, but found them insufficient. Celebi further stressed the negative consequences for the southeastern region of Turkey in the event of an Iraq war.
  • January 27, 2003 (Adana Consulate – Press review): DISK stages anti-war demonstrations in Istanbul and Sirnak. They called the members of parliament to ‘vote for peace’.
  • February 4, 2003 (Adana Consulate – Press review): According to the Adana regional representative of DISK, over 12.000 workers were dismissed due to the 2002 economic crisis.
  • March 23, 2003 (Adana Consulate – Press review): DISK, KESK, TBB and TMMO held a meeting calling for a work stop on march 27.


  • July 27, 2004 (Ankara Embassy – Report on labour reaction to a US initiative): The embassy reports that the Turkish labour confederations are unlikely to react to the USG Cuba initiative as they focus exclusively on domestic issues.


  • March, 4, 2004 (Ankara Embassy – Report on labour issues and EU accession): In US embassy report on labour related issues in the EU accession process of Turkey, the DISK representative, Tayfun Görgün voices his concern over the continued government interference regarding some core labour rights like freedom of association, right to strike and right to collective bargaining. DISK asked the EU to monitor closely labour issues during the accession process.
  • April 1, 2005 (Adana Consulate – Press review): DISK, KESK, TMMOB and TBB are planning a rally on April 3 against the privatizations organized by the government.


  • January 30, 2006 (Adana Consulate – Press review): During a demonstration against the privatization of the TEKEL factory, KESK, DISK and Kamu-Sen members tried to block the D-400 highway. As the police intervened, one worker was hospitalized.
  • February 6, 2006 (Adana Consulate – Press review): The DISK chairperson visited the TEKEL factory and called on the worker’ platform to go on a one-hour strike against the government which ‘has been observing the instructions of the IMF’.


  • January 30, 2007 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): NGO’s blame the government and vica versa for the lack of any progress on the reform of Article 301. DISK president Celebi declared that the NGO’s already voiced their support for changes to article 301. Further, Musa Cam, secretary general of DISK, declared that the slogan ‘we are all Armenians’ was meant as a reaction against chauvinism and discrimination.
  • February 2, 2007 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): DISK, TISK, TOBB and other NGO’s will hold a meeting to discuss the needed changes to Article 301.
  • March 13, 2007 (Adana Consulate – Press review): Southeastern DTP mayors are meeting with contacts in Istanbul to discuss the Kurdish issue. The first visit went to the DISK president.
  • March 14, 2007 (Ankara Embassy – Report on the presidential nomination debate): As the presidential election process will start on April 16, some events could possible provoke social disturbance. As such,  DISK aims to march to the Taksim square on May 1.
  • March 22, 2007 (Ankara Embassy – Report on the left in Turkey): Left-leaning politicians seem to show some sign of live as elections are approaching. As such, DSP, SHP, DISK and the ’10 december group’ are trying to align their actions in order to come an alliance.
  • April 18, 2007 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): DISK announced to organize a mass rally towards Taksim square on May 1. The Istanbul governor’s office announced this would be illegal.
  • May 1, 2007 (Istanbul Consulate – Report on May Day): DISK organized a mass rally towards Taksim square on May 1, thereby ignoring the fact that they weren’t given ay permission for this. The police managed to keep the crowds away from the square, yet about 1000 demonstrators managed to reach Taksim. The Istanbul police was remarkably violent against the demonstrators.
  • May 18, 2007 (Ankara Embassy – Report on Kurds in Parliament): As the DTP aims to enter parliament through the election of so-called ‘independent candidates’, DTP tries to mobilize support from outside the DTP such as from DISK.
  • August 16, 2007 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): Abdullah Gül visited Turkish NGO’s and labour unions such as DISK to mobilize support for his presidential bid.


  • March 11, 2008 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): In protest of the draft Social Security law, Turk-Is, DISK and KESK (which are organized in the Emek Platform) are organizing a two hour strike on Friday.
  • March 12, 2008 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): The conflict on the new social security bill continues. DISK president declared that the government is attacking pension and health care rights which he qualified as the ‘twin towers’ for workers.”.
  • March 28, 2008 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): In an effort to ease the tension in turkey, TUSIAD president visited DISK president Celebi.
  • April 30, 2008 (Istanbul Consulate – Report on May Day): DISK and KESK declared to be determined to celebrate May 1 on the Taksim Square. Meanwhile, the AKP government declared May 1 as ‘labor and solidarity day’, but didn’t make it a national holiday.
  • May 1, 2008 (Ankara Embassy –Report on May Day)(2 cables): Security measures form May 1 are tight. Over 25.000 policemen will be deployed. KESK and DISK announced that over 500,000 workers would gather at Taksim Square, without an official permission. President Gul regrets the lack of consensus and announced to take steps to make May 1 an official holiday. DISK president Celebi nevertheless call off the marsh on the last moment, citing ‘common sense’ as a reason.
  • May 2, 2008 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): All media report excessive police brutality against labour union demonstrators. The DISK headquarters was besieged as the police fired teargas in the building. As everything escalated, DISK president Celebi, cancelled the marsh to Taksim. In total, 530 demonstrators were detained, 6 policemen ad 32 civilians injured.
  • May 6, 2008 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): In the aftermath of the May 1 police violence,  DISK announced to file a complaint. Representatives of DISK, Turk-Is and KESK issued a statement saying that: The ruling AKP, the governor of Istanbul and the Istanbul police chief violated citizens’ rights to life and freedom of speech and the rights to hold demonstrations and rallies.”
  • June 19, 2008 (Ankara Embassy – Report on Tuzla shipyard safety): Limter-Is, a DISK affiliate, protested against the unsafe working conditions at the Tuzla Shipyards. Meanwhile, Erdogan was will meet with shipowners and labour unions to discuss safety issues. DISK affiliate Limter-Is was nevertheless not invited as it organized a strike.
  • June 20, 2008 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): Turk-Is, Hak-Is and DISK boycotted a TUSIAD meeting which was to prepare a change in the constitution.
  • July 2, 2008 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): DISK president Celebi was acquitted in a law suit for organizing an illegal marsh to the Taksim Square on May 1.
  • December 1, 2008 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): DISK, KESK and some other NGO’s organized a marsh of over 50.000 demonstrators against the AKP’s handling of the global financial crisis in Turkey. Clashes with the police erupted.


  • February 13, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): DISK, KESK & Turk-Is are organizing a rally on February 15 against the AKP government.
  • April 16, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): DISK, KESK and other professional organizations announced their determination to celebrate May 1 on the Taksim square.
  • July 7, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): As Turk-Is announced a one-hour strike to protest ongoing collective bargaining issues with the government, DISK decided to support this action.
  • August 3, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): In a reaction on the AKP’s ‘Kurdish Initiative’, DISK president Suleyman Celebi declared that the state should try to find a democratic settlement to the problem, yet also stated that no one should be allowed to debate Turkey’s integrity, democracy, secularism and respect for the law.
  • August 18, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): Minister Atalay announced he will meet with DISK and TUSIAD on Friday to discuss the AKP’s ‘Kurdish Initiative’.
  • August 19, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): Interior Minister Atalay met with representatives of TUSIAD and DISK to discuss the ‘Kurdish Initiative’. He declared that: This process, which is full of painful experiences, is not only the problem of the AKP or the government but is the responsibility of all of us.”
  • October 20, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Report on unemployment fund issue): As the AKP government is discussing a change of the law which would allow them to use unemployment fund money for infrastructure projects, labour union confederations as Turk-Is, Hak-Is and DISK voiced their opposition to this initiative.
  • December 1, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Report on November 25 strike): DISK and Turk-Is supported the public sector strike of November 25 on the right to engage in collective bargaining.
  • December 16, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Media Report): DISK president Celebi reacted on the closure of the DTP party stating that: “we need commonsense today more than any other time. The parliament is the only platform to find solutions to problems. The government and the opposition parties should exert joint efforts.”
  • December 23, 2009 (Ankara Embassy – Report on TEKEL case): Thousand of TEKEL workers are protesting privatizations in Ankara for the last couple of days. DISK announced their support for the protest. 


  • January 28, 2010 (Ankara Embassy – Report on labour union head count): The announcement of the union membership figures by the ministry of Labour and Social Security has been postponed (for two years). These official numbers are nevertheless crucial for the unions as they determine the eligibility of labour unions to engage in collective bargaining. Therefore, unions tend to inflate their membership figures by including dead, retired or resigned members on their rolls. A 2009 amendment of the ‘collective agreement, strike and lock-out law’ nevertheless tasked the ministry of social security to report the correct membership numbers by 2010. Media speculates about whether this ‘postponement’ is a to be seen as a bribe of the government to the unions as they oppose some of the proposed revisions in a new labour union law. DISK was particularly opposed to the law as it said it was in conflict the EU and ILO regulations.
  • February 3, 2010 (Ankara Embassy – Report on general work stoppage)(3 cables): Turk-Is, in cooperation with the other union confederations, prepares a ‘one day work stoppage’ on February 4 to protest the privatization of the TEKEL factory.
  • February 5, 2010 (Ankara Embassy – Report on general work stoppage): The February 4 ‘work stoppage’ can be considered as a success. Although Hak-Is and Memur-Sen decided not to support the work stoppage, all the other union confederations supported the strike.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: