400 striking workers stood in front of the Bekaert factory in Izmit. Their strike action started 10 days ago following a failure in the negotiations towards a new collective bargaining agreement.

Over the last years, Turkey has faced massive inflation and consequently a huge decline in workers’ purchasing power. Wages are far from enough for workers to make ends meet. Bekaert has refused to give workers a fair wage increase. The workers asked for an increase that compensates the inflation and reflects the good financial results that have been made by the workers in the Turkish Bekaert company.

The current minimum wage in Turkey is one of the lowest wages in Europe. The government’s announced annual inflation rate is 85%, but according to the calculations, particularly from trade unions, the real inflation is much higher. Workers demand a living wage to be able to subsist.

The government decree refers to ‘national security’ as reason to ban the strike, although the sector has no connection to anything relating to national security. Birlesik Metal-Is, the representative trade union in Bekaert Izmit and the workers rejected this ban and continued their strike.

The President of Birlesik Metal-Is, Adnan Serdaroglu, commented:

“The only way for workers to demonstrate their rights is for them to strike. This ban is against the law and therefore we stand here today, in front of the Bekaert factory, to demand that our voices are heard and our rights are respected. 

“We want to warn Bekaert management that the international management of the company must intervene to solve this problem and grant workers their basic rights.

“Right now, there is no production in the company, and this situation will continue until workers are granted their rights. We do not recognise the government’s illegal strike ban”.

The general manager of the Bekaert factory has sent workers emails, threatening to dismiss workers for their legitimate strike action and threatening them with damage costs which they would have to pay out of their own pockets.

General Secretary of industriAll Europe, Luc Triangle, told the Bekaert workers:

You have our full support and solidarity. What Bekaert is doing in Turkey is totally unacceptable. We all know that inflation is skyrocketing in Turkey, and you deserve a good collective bargaining agreement. It’s a sign of weak management, if management must hide behind the Erdogan regime to block a strike. Employers need to negotiate, and you have the right to strike!

The Bekaert group needs to take its social responsibility seriously, not only in Belgium but everywhere else, and also in Turkey. Together with IndustriALL Global Union, industriAll Europe will be following this case closely and will widely publish the proceedings if this issue is not resolved fast. The new collective agreement must be signed as soon as possible. We are with you in this fight!”

IndustriALL Global Asistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan added:

 “The right to strike is an essential part of a democratic society and a fundamental social and economic right. Its recognition and protection must be the rule and any restriction might be the exception. Therefore, the Turkish legislation is in a contradiction of these internationally recognized standards. As a matter of fact, the committee of freedom of association of international labour association already expressed its regrets several times on the systemic practices of the Turkish government in banning the strikes on grounds of national security.
This is completely unacceptable as far as trade unions are concerned and it brings us to a situation in Turkey where the right to strike is not in place practically.

We urge the central and local management of Beckart not to hide behind the presidential decree but instead recognize the right to strike and sit down with the union representatives of Birleşik Metal İş for a good faith bargaining without any delay.
Our struggle will continue until justice arrives on the plant.”

Solidarity with Bekaert Workers in Turkey

ACV-CSC Metea Bekaert Zwevegem and the complete EWC (European Works Council) said:

”We categorically reject the decree of the Turkish Government and express our full support for the workers of Bekaert in their just struggle for their rights, and we demand the full legitimacy of the strike as a means of defending the working class”.

FNME CGT said:

“Solidarity with all workers around the world is in our DNA. We suffer the same repression in France against our fundamental rights, which are constantly under attack. Our strength is us, our solidarity in our struggles”.

ABVV Metaal Bekaert Aalter said:

“We want workers to have a fair chance to negotiate and the right to strike. It is unacceptable that Bekaert calls on the government to break off the strike. The select committee of the European Works Council has asked not to act repressively, not to admit the police and not to fire people. We endorse this!”

FTM-CGT France said:

The attacks are completely unacceptable. An attack on you is an attack on all of us. This is an attack on collective bargaining and on democracy and trade unions across the world. We stand by you in your struggle against this injustice you are facing in Turkey.

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