Threshold may paralyze number of trade unions

Threshold may paralyze number of trade unions

ISTANBUL - Hurriyet Daily News
Threshold may paralyze number of trade unions

Members of several trade unions rally in Ankara in this file photo. The government says the total number of organized workers in the country is lower than the unions claim. DHA photo

A draft law that regulates the threshold for trade unions in any sector to qualify for collective bargaining was submitted on the evening of Jan. 31 to the Turkish parliamentary commission, which would cause many unions to lose their rights on collective agreements.

A trade union should have at least 3 percent of the total number of workers in any sector as its members to have a right to negotiate for a collective agreement with the employers. Currently the threshold stands at 10 percent but uncertainties mark the labor market as the government and unions disagree on the number of unionized workers.

Another hurdle put in the draft law against the trade unions is that a trade union should have members at least 40 percent in a workplace.

Initially the threshold was set at 0.5 percent in the draft law but this was raised to 3 percent upon objections of employers. The draft law also lowers the age limit to union membership to 15 from 16, according to Anatolia news agency.

Many trade unionists were even criticizing the 0.5 percent limit because it would cause many trade unions to lose rights on collective labor agreements as the government has been preparing to disclose updated sector-based statistics regarding the number of trade union members based on the Social Security Institution (SGK), which is expected to reveal a lower number of organized workers than previously recorded.

Although the deadline for disclosing the updated numbers of organized workers based on SGK records was the end of January, the data was not released as Labor and Social Security Minister Faruk Çelik did not instruct the ministry officials to do so, according to daily Vatan. The unions that are entitled to collective contracts will have a one year transitional period to adhere to the new laws, the paper said.

“The number of organized workers is not 3.2 million for God’s sake,” daily Hürriyet quoted Çelik as saying yesterday. The real number was 880,000, Çelik said.

Türk-Is reaches deal

Mustafa Kumlu, the head of Türk-Iþ, the largest trade union confederation in Turkey, agreed with the rearrangement in the draft after he met with Prime Minister Recep T. Erdogan and Çelik on Jan. 31, according to Hürriyet. Nevertheless, the remaining two confederations maintain their objections to the draft law.

If the 3 percent threshold is made into law, it will be a complete destruction for the trade unions, said Mahmut Arslan, the head of Hak-Iþ confederation, according to Anatolia. Only 20 of the 51 trade unions that are entitled to collective agreements will keep their status, he said, adding that none of the trade unions under DÝSK, the other trade union confederation, will pass the threshold.

“The question is not only about limiting rights to strike and collective agreements [by the draft law]. Another aspect of the [government] threat is that [the draft law] paves the way for removing the workers’ severance pay,” said Ali Riza Küçükosmanoglu of DISK, according to the Anatolia news agency. “DISK is the only organization that defends that this draft law is against the International Labor Law agreements that Turkey is obliged to adhere,” he said.