Our unionism needs urgent reforms

Our unionism needs urgent reforms

The declaration and practice of the strike at Turkish Airlines showed that the union laws have some negative influences on working life.

As it is known, beginning from the 1960s, when the laws regulating working life with collective bargaining and free unionism were enacted, the unionism in our country made rapid progress within several years with the concerns of unionists, political parties and governments. Also many positive steps were taken in work life, while the rate of registered employees and union members showed an increase.

After 1970, especially due to the poor insights of political parties and unionists, the laws were deformed rather than being reformed. The last link in this deformation chain is the latest Turkish Airlines strike. The result of this bears an aspect completely detrimental to working life.

According to the latest census made at the beginning of 2013, there are around 11 million registered employees in our country, while only 9 percent of them are members of a union. When those working in public sector are excluded from the list, this rate decreases even further. Even this simple data is a clear example illustrating that work life in our country has evolved to the disadvantage of employees and society, and has gradually adopted aspects to upset social peace.

As the laws enacted since the 1970s could not reform this situation, the Unions and Collective Bargaining Law, which came into effect in October 2012, has only a very slight possibility of reforming it, too.

I should note at once that, Unionists are the ones primarily responsible for this situation, while political parties and governments also have a role in it.

None of these three actors had ever possessed noteworthy data on work life since they never identified the serious data and thus never knew which data they actually needed.

I read nearly all the minutes of the Unions and Collective Bargaining Law debates when it was discussed in Parliament in 2012. Instead of comparatively handling the data peculiar to our country’s employees by considering our social habits, notions and beliefs; the party speakers, most of whom are unionists, only expressed some detections of ILO contracts, which could be regarded as valid everywhere but do not suffice to meet the needs of our people and our issues.

Since they achieved congress with the slogans and speeches they have been repeating for years, they also carried these issues to the parliamentary platform; they seemed as if they sincerely believed in what they said. However, most of what they said did not have equivalence in practice, especially in work life. And most of them were not true.

The main goal of the government in enacting such laws was to regulate work life with employer-employee relations instead of collective bargaining, and conduct this within the administration of weak unions as far as possible. It hoped that such regulation could function well. However, the government was supposed to bring a draft to the Parliament after searching and developing rules complying with work life, society, workplaces, technology, human life, and the conditions of democratic public order. The draft was introduced in order to solve the daily problems briefly and directly, and it was passed by the Parliament with the pressure of immediate problems.

Today, work life is being conducted in peace thanks to the sensibility and 50-year experience of the employees.
Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım’s statements after the failure of the strike that was going to be held yesterday were interesting. “Turkish Airlines administration and unions must take lessons from the exemplary behavior of the employees. Conciliation and a peaceful working atmosphere must be provided as soon as possible.”

I guess Mr. Yıldırım is warning his colleagues. There is an urgent need to create new policies with serious examinations, comparisons and reports based on updated data instead of outdated and invalid ones.

Tarhan Erdem is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this article appeared on May 16. It was translated into English by Daily News’ staff.