Wed Sep 27, 2023
September 27, 2023

Türkiye: Municipality Workers Do Not Agree With Misery Wages

Since the 2000s, the subcontractor working order has been increasing rapidly in Turkey. It is estimated that 1 million 100 thousand workers work in the subcontracting system in the state and municipalities. Again, 2.5 million workers are working in the private sector under the subcontracting system under conditions of misery. Workers who did not consent to this wave of attacks developed significant struggles from time to time. For the last year, the subcontract workers of the Municipality have been organizing a supra-union organization in the municipalities by trying to activate the workers’ democracy. Their main demands are staffing rights and equal pay. The workers organized around TABİB (Contracted Workers Union) are continuing a struggle against both employers and union bureaucracies with their actions. The workers, who have increased their protests in the last few months, decided to strike in Kadıköy (Istanbul) Municipality. Kadim Fırat, one of the spokespersons of the movement and a municipal worker, evaluated this process.

By Kadim Fırat

Kadıköy Municipality workers, whose rights were transferred from the subcontractor companies to the Municipality Company, entered the strike process. Workers, whose incomes have decreased in recent years, received 9 percent increase in July 2021. In conditions where inflation fluctuates in triple figures, workers are overwhelmed by intense financial difficulties and therefore they talk about the economy every day. The workers, who lost their rights with the 2018 Decree Law, tried to fill this gap with collective agreements in the past years. The previous 2 collective bargaining agreements went badly economically due to the manipulations of the Genel-Is Union Headquarters [1]. The gap in salary is opened. Keeping in mind the memory of past practices and anticipating the destruction experienced today, Kadıkoy workers started a struggle for improvement with the Additional Protocol earlier this year, a few months away from the collective bargaining agreement. Branch management and some representatives dismissed the demands of the workers, saying, “If we take it now, we cannot get it in the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” in order to be in line with the Genel-Is Headquarters and to take advantage of the upcoming trade union branch elections. In February, the representatives who voiced the demands of the workers for the Additional Protocol at the DİSK’s [2] meeting were dismissed.

These developments led to an increase in the meaning attributed to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). CBA negotiations started on 2 June. The Collective Bargaining Agreement draft, whose backbone was created by the Trade Union Headquarters, was given to the employer a few months ago. In the meantime, the minimum wage has risen yet again. As of today, many workers are talking about the need to revise the draft. The union does not view this proposal positively. Kartal, Maltepe and Atasehir’s CBAs were completed in a single session, especially when wage matters were discussed. And as the drafts were not revised, the demand for a pay rise according to the inflation rate was also raised. In these three municipalities, wages will decrease to the minimum wage level again towards the New Year.

On the night of September 2, the Headquarters and Trade Union Branch Management wanted to abruptly conclude Kadıköy’s CBA, just like the other three municipalities. Kadıkoy workers, who had been slowing work for a long time, did not give up their right to a pay rise according to the inflation rate in the 14-hour negotiations on September 2, where wage items were discussed. The workers did not allow a contract to be signed against their will by following the session in the garden outside until the morning. The negotiations proved fruitless as the workers did not consent to the misery wages.

Thus, the strategy of signing the collective contract overnight, which the worker was unaware of, which was implemented in the other three municipalities, collapsed. Another meeting was held with the employer but no progress was made.

With the end of the mediation process, anger and economic troubles mobilized the workers. The workers pressed the union. The Union Branch, which did not have a proper program, turned from where the pressure came from, and could not manage the process in a transparent way, got the pressure of the workers and increased their anger.

Negotiations were blocked and the belief that there was no alternative but to strike was spreading among the workers. Union managers were distracting the workers with various excuses. The workers, on the other hand, wanted the strike application letter to be announced as soon as possible, to be posted on the door of the workplace and to strike within 6 working days.

The proceedings were busier last week. The information meeting that was to be held on Thursday turned into a gathering in the garden. On Friday, it was decided to put the SIGN OF STRIKE on the municipality building, which was commemorated with drums and horns.

While the workers were waiting to go on strike after 6 working days, it was noticed that the strike sign had no starting date A wave of anger rose again among the workers. Many workers began to say “they are playing games with us, making fun of our minds”. They accused the union of hanging false documents. The union bureaucracy had to admit that it had made a mistake by accepting the accusations. This was not a simple mistake, it was the natural result of the implementation of a slack policy. On September 19, new documents were posted and if there is no agreement, a strike will begin on September 28 in Kadıkoy Municipality.

Of course, the employer tries to close the collective bargaining agreement cheaply.
The union should also strive to improve its members’ wages and social rights by struggling. However, our Union Branch, with its passive attitude in the struggle for the Additional Protocol, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and “forgetting” the date in the strike implementation sign, damages the trust of the workers in the union. Not operating these processes properly harms workers and increases impoverishment.

The workers, who do the daily job of the municipality, who work hard and deserve humane living conditions and respect, do not see this from their employers and their unions. The only branch that the union can rely on in the collective bargaining process is the workers. Those who trust bureaucrats, not workers, will both lose and make workers lose. Employees cannot afford to lose anymore. Kadıköy municipality workers have learned that, for several years, they have been going through a process of struggle being stabbed in the back at every moment they take a step forward, and their demands are not met, and they are faced with bureaucratic unionism that has surrounded them. They also see those trying to get a seat in this bureaucratic pyramid. Outsourced municipal workers also see those trying to build workers’ democracy. There are no shortcuts in workers’ struggles. With stubbornness and patience, they develop by accumulating experience in each period of struggle.

Now is the time for Kadıköy municipality workers to come together and cooperate with their class sisters and brothers.


[1] – Public Services Employees Union of Turkey

[2] – DISK: Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları Konfederasyonu. The literal translation from Turkish is “Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions.” Yet, they prefer to use the translation “Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey.”

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