Turkish labor protest continues over wage dispute

Turkish labor protest continues over wage dispute

Turkish labor protest continues over wage dispute

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Thousands of workers from the factories of car giants Tofaş and Oyak Renault in western Turkey continued their strike on May 19, in a rare wage dispute to hit the country’s flourishing car sector.

Several auto parts companies joined the Tofaş and Oyak Renault workers in protest against their employers. 
Hundreds of workers from a leading equipment manufacturer in the city, Coşkunöz, have also been on strike, as well as workers from another auto parts maker, Mako. 

“The spreading strike in the automotive industry has put serious stress on almost all sector players.

Unfortunately, we now see that several automotive parts producers have joined the strike wave, although our sector has been one of the best in Turkey in terms of improving its workers’ working conditions for the last 40 years. We hope reconciliation between employers and employees in the sector will be achieved very soon,” said Turkish Automotive Parts Industry Association (TAYSAD) head Mehmet Dudaroğlu in a written statement late on May 18. 

According to the list of the top 1,000 exporters of 2014 announced by the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TİM) on May 18, Oyak Renault is in third place while Tofaş is seventh. Together, the two automakers account for more than 40 percent of Turkey’s annual car output, according to industry data. Around 80 percent of their production is for export markets. 

Turkish carmaker Tofaş, owned by Italy’s Fiat and local conglomerate Koç Holding, announced on May 18 that it has halted production at its plant in the northwestern city of Bursa. The company added that it did not expect the stoppage to affect sales. 

Tofaş CEO Cengiz Eroldu said he had met the striking workers on May 18 and asked them to return to work, adding that both the employees and their employer would lose if the strike continues. 

“We cannot make any change in the collective labor agreement, as it is valid until August 2017, but I’ll work to secure an additional financial contribution to you within one month,” Eroldu said in a written statement late on May 18. 

Workers began their protest late on May 14 in Bursa. The factory is run by Oyak Renault, a joint venture between France’s Renault and the Turkish army pension fund Oyak. The Renault workers, complaining about low wages and saying their grievances had been ignored for a month, said a similar factory had raised its workers’ wages by 60 percent and they also wanted improved wage conditions.

The workers shouted slogans against the management and Metal Workers Trade Union of Turkey (Türk Metal), from which they have resigned. Türk Metal struck the agreement with Turkey’s Metal Industrialists Union (MESS) eight months ago.

An Oyak Renault spokesman, who asked not to be identified by name, told Reuters late on May 17 that the protest had reached a point where it posed “a serious danger” to the auto sector.

He said talks on resolving the dispute were continuing between the MESS and manufacturers in the sector.