'Tis time to lay off employees

'Tis time to lay off employees

Belgin Akaltan, belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
Tis time to lay off employees Let’s name it correctly: being laid off means being fired. I don’t exactly know the distinction between the two, but for me, it’s losing your job whichever way you say it.

When you are fired - and it happens a lot in Turkey, especially in the media sector- What was I saying? Sorry, I got carried away by bitter memories of the past.

Winter is the traditional season to lay off employees. I don’t know why, but the end of the year seems to be a favorite time for bosses to let go of some of their workers. Actually, there is no season for it in Turkey; the labor laws are so twisted and bent in favor of employers that an employee has absolutely no say while the employer is given unconditional powers to fire anyone at anytime on any grounds.

I’ve been working for more than three decades and most of it has been in Turkey, employed by both Turkish and foreign employers, but I have also worked abroad in international institutions. Believe me, there is not much of a difference.

The subtle repression of female employees is everywhere, as are medieval mentalities, dirty tricks and the suffering inflicted by female managers on female subordinates. It is very sad for me, as a woman, to point this out.

Some time ago, I was approached by a foreign teacher working in a private school in Turkey because she was frustrated with the problems she was having with her employer: her contract had not been signed and her residence permit and work permit were not procured because of the negligence of the institution. She did not know what the future had in store for her. I tried to explain to her the miserable situation of the labor world in Turkey. I also tried to explain to her that labor laws had been extremely curtailed under the military regime after the coup on Sept. 12, 1980, and that nobody has raised a finger to correct them even decades after the military regime ended. I also told her about the possible contribution of perhaps her own country’s secret services in the whole scam, but it was beyond her comprehension. Talking about the Sept. 12 coup, half of Turkey was on strike one day before the coup.

Now, do you ever hear of any strikes? Do you hear of any collective contracts? Anyway, was it any better before the coup, you might be wondering. Not perfect, but definitely better. We had unions; no matter how weak they were, at least we had a trade body to consult. They could assist you or not depending on how much time was left after they finished their political activities.

Personally, I have been fired three times. The first time was bitter, as it affected everything else in my life. I had to hide it from my mother and my “kapıcı.” There is no way you can explain this kind of a situation to these two people. You can explain it to your child, but not to your mother. It is impossible. Don’t ask me why. This peculiarity is still valid today. I know of young colleagues who have had to pretend for some time that they are on annual leave, etc., especially to their mothers and kapıcıs.

I was once fired on a Dec. 27. I remember taking that malicious letter to my editor-in-chief, asking him
“Is this your New Year’s present?”

He tried to explain, “Belgin, I really do not have anything to do with it; it is because of the new restructuring; the advisors are doing it…” Advisors my ass! I have hated the word “restructuring” ever since!

But, you know what; I would like to thank that boss now!

It was extremely bitter to be fired and it will sound like a cliché, but it opened many doors for me. I mean, I may have had to push against the doors hard to get them to open a little, but they did in the end. First, I went into the television business, which I had been interested in for a long time but never had the courage to switch to. Then I had an international assignment in the Balkans that ended up being an incredible personal and professional experience. Then on my return home, I was able to do some academic studies -- none of which I would have done if I had not been fired in the first place.

Not every fired person is as fortunate as I am, I know. In a layoff, your whole life collapses, your dreams and your self-esteem are shattered. You hate the people who have done this to you; you hate those who continue working at the place you have been fired from.

But, really, keep your spirits high! This advice is from a hardened laborer of the media sector who has seen many things! Wait, I have a call now from Human Resources. I wonder why. I wonder why they want to see me at this time of the year, at this hour, on this day. Come on, can this be it? Noooo, I don’t think so. Or is it?