Turkey

Etkinlik raporu özeti – Türkçe: Rapo_Turce_ozet[1]  

Participants

Turkish participants at the young workers gathering represented different unions in Turkey, most of them belonging to the DISK (Turkish Federation of Revolutionary Workers Unions)

Introduction:

Trade unions in Turkey operate in a repressive climate. The law of the dictatorial period is still in force and represents the major obstacle for people to organize. Under the influence of processes of privatization and outsourcing, there is a growing segregation and competition between formal employees (permanent contracts) and informal workers (often young temporary workers) in many Turkish companies. The trade union act which is designed after the military coup of September 12, 1980 is still in force. The purpose of this law was to counter coalitions of resistance between different movements of civil society. The law also prohibits the formation of specific organizations and young women in trade unions.

The independent metal workers union Birlesik Metal-Ish is a union in Turkey which worked on organizing young workers and strengthening their position within the union in most systematic manner. They have established a “young workers office” in May 2004 and adopted a Young Workers Convention on November 5, 2006. Also BMIS was closely involved in the organization of TAREM’s first “World Young Workers Gathering” in 2008. BMIS has experience with training young members and tried to involve this new generation of activists in the union structures. The main shortcoming of this work is that it focuses on trade unionists and is not involving unorganized young workers. New methods and tools are needed to enable unions to attract and retain young members. In the past (years 80 and 90) there were some initiatives lead by unions to design and establish so-called “workers houses” in the poorer districts of large cities. These sites should serve as a platform that bring employees from different workplaces and companies together; by organizing trainings, sports and cultural activities. This strategy could work to reach people who are isolated and often work under temporary contracts. Yet it did not continue.

There are few experiences in Turkey in attracting new young people to trade unions and the creation of partnerships with other youth organizations. Moreover, the political climate of the trade union movement in Turkey is fragmented and politicized, and there is little cooperation between unions. Exchange of ‘good practices’ among youth of various Turkish trade unions (based on a collective interest rather than individual initiatives) will be useful within this context. Specific contributions of international organizing experiences can contribute to the process.

Some data on trade unions and youth[1]

In Turkey, half of population is younger than 29. In 2008, the unemployment rate for young people in the age category of 15-24 years was 27,5%. However, only the youngsters searching for a job were included in these data, so the real number is expected to be higher, possibly up to 40%.

Youth is divided among economic sectors as follows: 48,3% works in service; 26% in industries; 20,2% in agriculture, and 5,5% in construction.

Trade union membership consists for 73% of men and for 27% of women. The rate of unionization among youth is as follows:

15-19 years: 5%

20-24 years: 21%

25-29 years: 31%

Main problems of youth at the labour market are: low wages, no insurance, no social security, work for long hours. 40% of the young workers works without insurance: 40% and 76% works without a contract. Among youth without education, this number is even higher: 90% works without contract and without insurance. In the agricultural sector, only 19% of the young workers works with insurance. Only 37% of the young workers is satisfied with their salary.

Visions of working youth in Turkey

Young workers define themselves through religion, age and sex; women mainly through sex and age. Definitions differ depending on age:

15-19: define themselves through age and football team

19-24: define themselves through age and religion

24-29: define themselves through ethnicity, political vision and financial position

Most important problems according to the working youth included in the research are: unemployment, inflation, expensive life, work security, terror, Kurdish problem, education system, lack of democracy.

The organisations that are most trusted by working youth are: Army (54%); presidency (35%); court (31%); police (26%); unions (9%)

With respect to the economic crisis, 70% is pessimist about future, only 6% is positive. 70% of the youth workers think that all people are equally affected by the crisis, while 23% thinks that young workers are affected more.

Visions of young workers on unions

66% of the young workers think that the main function of unions is to protect workers. However, one out of three workers says that unions are not that active in protecting and defending their rights. The main reasons for not defending their rights are:

–          Repression of employers (41% )

–          Lack of trade union management

–          Limits because of the law

The main reason for young workers not to get organised in trade unions are:

–          I don’t need to (41%)

–          No opinion (34%)

–          We don’t have a union (8%)

The main obstacles for trade unions to organise youth are:

–          Fear of dismissals (86%)

–          Lack of knowledge on how the law protects unionized workers

–          Attitude of employer

Related to the economic crisis, 53% thinks that nothing changed at the workplace, while 20% thinks that wages are paid late and 17% says that the crisis resulted in dismissals at the workplace.

The crisis affected the trust young workers have in trade unions in a negative way: 49% thinks that unions are not effective compared to 11% who thinks that unions are effective. Among all young workers, 7% got more confidence in unions after the crisis, while for 19% the confidence in unions decreased.


[1] The data in the following three sections are based on notes taken by one of the participants during the Young Workers Gathering 2010.  These notes were taken during a presentation of TAREM on a research they executed on young workers and trade unions.

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