EI continues to provide support to its Turkish member, the teacher union Egitim Sen, which continued to be harassed by the authorities because of its policy in favour of education in mother tongue and for its outspokenness. The legal framework on freedom of association, rights to strike and to bargain collectively in the public sector still needs to be brought in line with ILO conventions. Unions are still being thwarted in their organising efforts by dubious court cases and arrests of their leaders. While the first link between Turkey’s trade unions and any real or perceived terrorist organisation has yet to be found, the authorities leave no opportunity untapped to refer to such an alleged link as an excuse for harsh and arbitrary repression.

Following the condemnation on 28 November 2011 of 25 officers of the Confederation of Public Services Unions (KESK), including 20 teacher unionists from Egitim Sen, EI deplores the new arrests and detention of Egitim Sen and KESK members and leaders.

In February 2012, 15 KESK female union officers and members were arrested in connection with the International Women’s Day celebration. Their trial started on 4 October in Ankara. EI representatives joined the international trade union delegation that attended the court hearing.

In the early hours of the morning on 25 June 2012, the Turkish police raided offices and houses of trade unionists in around 20 cities in Turkey. Seventy-one trade union members and leaders were detained. They are members of the ITUC-affiliated Confederation of Public Sector Workers’ Unions (KESK) and its affiliates Egitim-Sen, BTS, Tarim Orkam-Sen, SES, Tum Bel-Sen, BES, ESM and Haber-Sen. This attack was carried out under the pretext of an operation against an illegal terrorist organization. While some of the detainees were released on Friday 29 June, 28 trade unionists (including 15 members of the EI-affiliated teacher union Egitim-Sen) remain in detention, waiting for their trial to start on 10 April 2013. Among the detainees are Mehmet Bozgeyik, Egitim-Sen General Secretary, and Sakine Esen Yilmaz, Egitim-Sen Gender Secretary. EI, together with other Global Unions such as ITUC, ITF and PSI, launched an online campaign in partnership with LabourStart to condemn these anti-union harassment tactics. In a protest letter, EI urged the Turkish Prime Minister to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all detained trade unionists.

Latest developments

Police raids have targeted members and leaders of public sector union KESK in the early morning of Tuesday 19 February 2013. This new attack against the Turkish trade union movement, carried out by the authorities in 28 cities across the country, resulted in the arrest of at least 100 unionists, including many members of teachers' union Egitim Sen. In total, 167 arrest warrants had been issued for alleged links with terrorist organisations. In the meantime, 58 of the arrested unionists have been detained, while the rest of them has been released.

EI has launched an online campaign through LabourStart in support of the detained unionists.

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