2,000 metal workers to go on strike in Turkey 

Unions have questioned the policy of linking wage hikes to inflation, claiming that official inflation rates are unreliable. They also warned against government attempts to impose a “strike ban”

January 13, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Metal workers strike Turkey
(Photo: Birlesik Metal-is/Twitter)

In Turkey, approximately 2,000 workers affiliated to the United Metal Workers Union (Birlesik Metal-is) have decided to go on a strike on January 23 after talks to increase wages and fix wage rate hikes with the Metal Employers’ Union of Turkiye (MESS) failed, Bianet English reported on Thursday, January 12. 

The strike will be observed in 11 factories located in Istanbul, Manisa, Kocaeli, and Bandirma. Union members have already posted strike notices in front of these factories. 

“A decent wage and working conditions are the most basic rights of all workers and metal workers. Workers are in severe poverty and it is not possible for them to live on these minimum wages and meet their needs,” said a statement issued by Birlesik Metal-is. 

The union questioned the practice of fixing the minimum wage according to the official inflation rate, which it claimed was not reliable. Turkey has seen an unprecedented rise in prices of basic commodities over the last year. High inflation has made life of workers extremely difficult as their wages have not increased at par with the rise in prices.  

The official inflation rate in Turkey crossed 84% last year. However, unofficial sources claim that the actual inflation rate was above 170%. 

Even in December, when the government celebrated a drop in the official inflation rate to 64%, independent institutions claimed that the actual inflation was still close to 135%.

Based on the official inflation rate, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently announced a hike in minimum wages by nearly 55%, which unions slammed as inadequate.  

Unions claim that even after the revision, the majority of the country’s workers are getting wages only slightly above the poverty line, and that this was not sustainable as prices are increasing every day. 

No to ‘strike ban’ 

The statement also warned employers against using a “strike ban,” a legal provision in Turkey which allows government and employers to declare a strike illegal and ban it. Article 63 of Law No. 6356 on Unions and Collective Bargaining Agreements allows the president to declare a strike as “disruptive and a threat to national security” and ban it. 

The Birlesik Metal-is statement asserts that such a strike ban would yield no benefit. “We will use our constitutional right” and fight against such a move, the union said.

Last month, Erdoğan had imposed a similar ban on the metal workers’ strike at the Bekaert company in the province of Kocaeli, asking them to postpone the strike by 60 days. The unions, however, decided to continue the strike, and finally won an over 80% wage hike. Various courts in the country and almost all opposition forces have been critical of the policy of “strike bans” adopted by the Erdoğan administration. 

Birlesik Metal-is is affiliated to DiSK, a confederation of progressive trade unions in Turkey. DiSK has been demanding a thorough revision of tax laws in the country as a way to address the problems of high prices and low wages by instituting higher taxes for those who earn more. It has also demanded more frequent revisions in the minimum wage rates in the country, from the current two times a year to at least four times.