By Workers’ Democracy Party (IDP), the Turkish section of the IWU-FI
5 July 2022. Since February 2017, Termokar workers have been struggling to unionize under Birleşik Metal-Iş, an affiliate of DISK, as well as for their membership rights in the Termokar factory, operating in the Manisa Organised Industrial Zone. The almost 5-year long unionisation struggle at Termokar has been subjected to policies of oppression and intimidation of the employer since its very inception. In 2017, the employer at Termokar, upon learning about the unionisation efforts, fired 14 workers. Termokar workers’ organizing efforts within the factory kept growing despite the layoffs, and they applied to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to obtain union authorization in April 2018. The Ministry granted the authorization, announcing that the union majority was achieved at the workplace.
Immediately after the union was authorised, Termokar management tried to break the struggle and fired the vanguard workers, who were allegedly accused of “disgraceful crime, immorality and disturbing the peace at the workplace” based on Article 25/2 of the Turkish Labour Code. Despite this new attack, workers continued to organize inside the factory and managed to resist the former. In addition to the ongoing struggle in the workplace, workers also fought a legal fight, which resulted in the court’s rejection of the employer’s request to appeal to the union’s authority in June 2020.
After the Covid-19 pandemic took hold of the world, the nationwide response of employers to this crisis was sending workers off on unpaid leaves — a method implemented at Termokar as well. Many workers were infected by the Covid-19 virus and advocated for halting production. The management’s response was to put as many as 35 of them on unpaid leave. Termokar workers acted again after this attack and started protesting in front of the factory. The protests started in June 2021 and workers achieved success within 10 days, got their demands accepted and went back to their jobs.
At the beginning of 2022, workers who led the unionisation struggle were punished by the Termokar management who offered them a lesser wage increase. Termokar management tried to divide the workers inside the workplace based on their association with the union. Termokar workers, among whom were migrant workers with no job security, repeatedly stressed that they would not give up their union despite all the efforts of the management to divide them.
Lastly, Termokar employer transferred the vanguard workers to a recently opened plant in order to fire them. The management pressured them to sign a fake document stating that they had accepted this arrangement and fired four of them who rejected to sign the document under pressure. The workers who were laid off announced that they would start a protest in front of the factory on 30 June 2022, together with the Izmir branch of Birleşik Metal-Iş. At the same time, the General Board of Directors of Birleşik Metal-Iş emphasized in a press release that resistance would continue in front of the factory until the demands of the laid-off workers were accepted.
The International Workers’ Unity – Fourth International (IWU-FI) stands in solidarity with the struggle of the metalworkers of Termokar and has sent messages and statements of support from trade unions and political leaders of the different sections of the IWU-FI. We call for the broadest solidarity with this worker’s struggle in Turkey.