Bill on labor rights stirs row in Turkey

Bill on labor rights stirs row in Turkey

It’s not very often that Turkey’s top three labor unions join forces due to their different ideological stances. The Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-İş) is a mainstream labor organization with the most members, while the Hak-Is Trade Union (Hak-İş) represents the conservative part of the Turkish working class and the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK) represents the leftist part.

Hak-İş, for example, due to its political proximity to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has not been very much willing to join the two other labor organizations’ criticisms against the government on issues concerning labor rights.

But draft legislation before the Turkish Parliament that seeks to amend various laws concerning employment, unemployment insurance, severance pay, flexible working and other workers’ rights has united all these three labor organizations with shared concerns that it undermines the job security and labor standards in Turkey.

They have two major criticisms of the bill. First, they complain that the government did not seek to listen to the labor organizations, which represent millions of workers while drafting the bill. Their second criticism is about the content of the proposed bill as they conveyed their objections through a joint declaration.

Here are some important points voiced by labor organizations:
-With the Law Proposal, it is possible to expand and extend the scope of a fixed-term employment contract. We find this regulation extremely inconvenient, as workers working on fixed-term contracts cannot benefit from severance and notice pay and job security (reemployment lawsuit) provisions.

-Employees under the age of 25 and over the age of 50 are not able to benefit from rights such as severance and notice pay as a result of being employed on a fixed-term employment contract (as temporary workers) and without any condition. This will result in unfair practices.

-Everything will turn upside down as the labor law in our country is regulated on the basis of the indefinite term employment contract. In addition, this discrimination based on age is also against the principle of equality referred to in our Constitution.

-The proposal aims to spread to part-time work. We find this regulation objectionable as it will cause a serious loss of rights in many issues such as part-time working old age pension, invalidity pension and entitlement to an unemployment allowance.

“As three workers’ confederations, we demand the withdrawal of this proposal, which we think will harm the rights of workers, especially severance pay and social security rights, which are guaranteed by the Constitution and laws,” read the joint statement that called on the government to withdraw it.
The outcry from the Turkish workers’ association is also heard by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which have issued a call on the Turkish government to revise the proposed bill.

“Taking into account that almost 10 million workers will be affected, it is a severe blow to the entire labor relations system of the country in violation of international core labor standards and is nothing less than an attack on its trade union movement,” a letter signed by the two organizations said.
They also expressed their readiness to engage with relevant international mechanisms of labor and trade union rights protection, including those of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Council of Europe in support of the Turkish labor unions.

The government says the bill will reduce unemployment as it will introduce new opportunities for the employment of workers under the age of 25 and over 50. But the opposition underlines that the new system will make nearly impossible for young workers to qualify for a pension. They criticized the government to solely address the needs of the employers by totally ignoring the working class, who is also suffering from worsened economic conditions.
It will be worth observing closely whether the government will heed the demands of the workers or remain committed to approving the controversial bill at the expense of upsetting millions of Turkish workers. 

Serkan Demirtaş,