Turkish public workers go on landmark strike

Turkish public workers go on landmark strike

Turkish public workers go on landmark strike

Thousands of public workers demonstrated in Ankara yesterday. Tension rose between police forces and demonstrators when the former intervened in the protests. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Turkish public workers went on a one-day strike early yesterday morning after collective bargaining between the three union confederations representing them and the government failed over the weekend.

The Confederation of Public Servants Trade Unions (Memur-Sen), the Turkish Public Workers’ Labor Union (Kamu-Sen) and the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) have announced that the government’s 3.5 percent raise for the first half of the year and 4 percent raise for the second half is insufficient.

Although the Memur-Sen confederation – which is known to have closer links with the government – did not officially participate in the strike, it allowed member syndicates to join it. Therefore, education syndicates from the three major confederations joined a strike together for the first time, closing schools across the country. Thousands of KESK members hit the street in the capital city of Ankara.

Workers’ demands

Demands for an end to injustice, wages that allow dignified standards, and the improvement of work conditions were not met during the collective bargaining process, said Önder Kahveci, the head of the Turkish Health Union (Türk Sağlık-Sen).

Protest meetings were also scheduled in Istanbul and İzmir, Erzurum, Konya, Mersin, Diyarbakır and Aydın with the participation of hundreds of thousands. There was tension in some cities between the police and protesters. Some 10 people, three of them police, were injured in Diyarbakır when the police intervened in the demonstrations.

The vast majority of railway workers are supporting the strike, Doğan news agency quoted United Transportation Workers Union General Manager Yavuz Demirkol as saying. The intercity railway in Istanbul stopped operating at 5 a.m. Doctors also walked out in some cities, sources reported.
Government members said the negotiations between the government and the syndicates were fair.
Public workers have received more than their fair share of the additional wealth created over the past decade, regardless of whichever criterion or measure is employed, Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek said.

The AKP’s deputy head, Hüseyin Çelik, also said the wage hikes would entail an additional burden on the budget. “If we give more to someone, we would have to cut back on another. Let us not fool ourselves,” he said.

On the other hand, opposition leaders supported the workers.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will always stand by public workers and the forces of labor in every democratic platform, the party’s leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu wrote in a Twitter message yesterday.

“PM Erdoğan will surely be able to muster the resources necessary to provide for public workers if they only cut back a little on the bottle of corruption partisans feed on,” said Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of MHP.