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Turkey: International trade unions support Turkish workers’ rights

Representatives of the European trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), Education International’s European region, are part of an international trade union delegation, together with representatives of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EFPSU), the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), present in Ankara to support arrested Turkish trade unionists.


They held a press conference on 3 October in Ankara in advance of the trial of 15 women members of KESK, the Turkish trade union federation, the next day.

This support was triggered by a meeting with Turkish trade unionists’ delegation in Brussels on 19 September. The delegation then drew the attention to the disrespect shown by national authorities to workers’ human and trade union rights.

The ruling AKP government says that Turkey is a democracy, but it is not the case in fact. Opposing organisations, such as trade unions, are under oppression. Sixty-nine members of KESK are under arrest for opposing the AKP.

Many arrested trade unionists must wait at least 8 months before going before a judge. The police always pretends that arrested KESK members are also members of the KGK, linked to the Kurdish party PKK. Authorities also always ask KESK why it is organising actions. Newly constitutionally set up courts can receive claims based on secret witnesses.

International conventions and core labour rights are not respected. Although Turkey has agreed on ILO standards, the later have not been translated into national law and implemented.

Education, following the 4 +4 +4 reform in the sector, has further become more and more privately-paid, reinforcing child labour. Also, religion classes are strengthened and encouraged.

On 4 October, 15 members of KESK, the Turkish trade union federation, will be trialled in Ankara, all women.

On 3 October, at the press conference, the EI/ETUCE representative, Regitze Flanov from the Danish affiliate DLF, talked about the issue from a “teacher-sisterhood” point of view, while other delegates took care of more technical matters. Were also as present at this press conference: Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU Deputy General Secretary, and Stephen Benedict, Director of the ITUC Human and Trade Union Rights Department.

“European Union-Turkey adhesion negotiations having being put to a halt, the Turkish Government unfortunately undermines basic rights,” said ETUCE Director, Martin Rømer. “We will exert pressure on the Government to respect national workers’ rights. We are resolutely joining this solidarity action in Europe. We stand and will always stand behind Turkish workers in general, and educators in particular.”

Carlos López Cortiñas, General Secretary of EI/ETUCE Spanish affiliate FETE-UGT, wrote in a letter of solidarity with KESK members:

“We urge your Government to urgently reconsider its strategy, as to allow a democratic opposition to function in an environment where one does not fear harassment or persecution, and to abstain seeking the destruction of turkey’s trade unions. Our 69 comrades will be trialled on 4 October on the basis of false accusations and all of them should be set free. Trade union rights are human rights!”

To read the interview with Abdullah Karahan, Egitim Sen’s Finance Secretary, please click here

The FETE-UGT support letter (in Spanish) is available here

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