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LABOR > Public workers prepare to walk out after collective bargain fails

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey’s public worker unions decide to walk out today against the government’s latest pay raise proposal, which they find incomprehensibly low. The government offers 3,5 percent raise for the first half of the year

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‘If Turkey is growing, we want our share of this growth, or things are not on the rails,’ says Ahmet Gündoğdu (C), head of Memur-Sen confederation, during a press meeting in Ankara yesterday. AA photo

‘If Turkey is growing, we want our share of this growth, or things are not on the rails,’ says Ahmet Gündoğdu (C), head of Memur-Sen confederation, during a press meeting in Ankara yesterday. AA photo

Trade unions representing civil servants have decided to stage a one-day walkout today after collective bargaining between the unions and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security ended without reaching an agreement.

Labor Minister Faruk Çelik had put forth an offer of a 3.5 percent raise for the first half of 2012 and 4 percent in the second half of the year, to be followed by a 3 percent raise for each half of 2013. The government’s previous offer was a 3 percent raise for each half of 2012, to be followed by a 2 percent raise in the first half of 2013 and a 3 percent raise in the second half.

Ahmet Gündoğdu, the president of the Confederation of Public Servants’ Trade Unions (Memur-Sen), stated May 21 that the offer was unacceptable and gave the minister until midnight to make a new offer. As no agreement has been reached since the last round of negotiations, all three public servants’ trade union confederations called for a one-day strike yesterday, to take place today.

Gündoğdu, who heads the committee representing the public servants’ trade unions in the collective bargaining process, called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was on an official visit to Pakistan, to reach a compromise, according to daily Hürriyet. But the prime minister said that this was the government’s final offer, reflecting “the budget deficit, the current account deficit, the Medium-Term Financial Plan and public finance discipline.”

‘Excuses’

“We refuse to understand the government, which has been hiding behind budget discipline for years. The 2011 budget discipline is not destroyed when 9,000 American-dollar millionaires emerge, and Turkey does not turn into Greece this way, but it does if the government gives a chicken-feed salary raise to public workers. [They] hide behind such incomprehensible excuses,” said İsmail Koncuk, the head of Turkish Public Workers’ Union (Kamu-Sen).

The Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) and Kamu-Sen called on their members not to go to work today, while Memur-Sen will join the labor action together with Eğitim-Bir-Sen, a trade union of teachers under Memur-Sen. Thus, for the first time all three trade unions representing teachers, Eğitim Sen (of KESK), Türk Eğitim Sen (of Kamu-Sen) and Eğitim-Bir-Sen, will go on a joint strike today. However, Memur-Sen, with its more than 500,000 members, allowed other trade unions under its umbrella free rein in deciding whether or not to join the general strike. “The question is clear: if Turkey is growing, we want our share of this growth, or things are not on the rails, as the Finance Minister [Mehmet Şimşek] and other officials say,” Gündoğdu said.

Opposition political parties have also reacted negatively to the government’s offer. “We support all employees’ activities. We support all democratic action without destruction,” said People’s Republican Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. He called for a peaceful strike.

“Turkey has the second-fastest growing economy in the world after China. How can a salary raise for public servants put its budget in trouble? Four-and-a-half million public servants do not cost more than three helicopters,” Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş said.

The government’s offer, seen within the framework of this year’s budget, is certainly political, said Lami Özgen, the head of KESK. “The government has made it its political preference to side with the rich; that is to say with the capital.”

May/23/2012

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