Brawl overshadows first day of Türk-İş congress
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Members of the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-İş) engage in a brawl following protests against Deputy PM Bekir Bozdağ and Türk-İş head Mustafa Kumlu. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZThe convention of Turkey’s largest labor organization began stormily yesterday as delegates jeered Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, while the main opposition leader urged workers to stand up against the government for their rights.
The four-day convention of the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-İş) opened amid criticism of current chairman Mustafa Kumlu on the grounds that he has put up little resistance to government policies curbing labor rights.
Delegates shouted “No to a mute Türk-İş” and “Türk-İş will change, there is no other way” as Kumlu made the opening speech at the gathering. Participants directed slogans, boos and whistles toward Bozdağ when the deputy prime minister took the floor,
frequently interrupting his speech and sparking short-lived
arguments among the delegates themselves.
Also addressing the gathering, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said he was disappointed the labor movement had weakened under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“The working class is in a state of lethargy. If you do not use your power in the streets, the newspapers will not even mention you. You cannot win your rights without paying a price,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Ten of the 35 trade unions that form Türk-İş, including the Turkish Journalist’s Union (TGS), have joined forces and fielded Mustafa Öztaşkın, the head of the Petroleum and Chemistry Workers’ Union (Petrol-İş), as their candidate to challenge Kumlu in Dec. 11 union elections.
A ‘new position’
The current leadership has acquiesced to a series of government moves restricting labor rights, Öztaşkın told the Hürriyet Daily News while also promising “a new position” for Türk-İş.
“The current leadership
has failed to carry out its responsibility. Türk-İş needs a new position at the forefront of the popular opposition,” Öztaşkın said,
adding that the union had remained silent amid government efforts to end severance payments and bring about flexible employment conditions.
“The right of unionization is under heavy attack, but Türk-iş is turning a blind-eye to this. Employment without social security is growing, but Türk-iş is not fighting against it; it’s as if no rights are being lost,” he said.
Trade unions must raise their voice on all major social and political issues, as well as on a parliamentary drive to draft a new Turkish constitution, said Öztaşkın, chiding the current leadership for staying silent.
“We will bring a new understanding to the Türk-İş administration. We will seek new ways for struggle and become the leader of the popular opposition,” he said.