Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Government Does not Recognize Right to Strike

Submitted by Tsiatsan on Wednesday, November 25 2009
güncel BIA The right to strike and to collective agreements for public employees is stated by International Conventions and ECHR decisions. The government has delayed the corresponding legal amendments for years. The Public Workers' Union Confederation claims that the government tries to gain time and intends to maintain a low budget allocated to public workers.
Public workers in Turkey go on strike today for their right to collective agreements and their right to strike. The reason for this is that the government has not amended the laws remaining from the time after the military coup in 1980. In fact, this is contrary to the actual situation. Turkey signed Convention No. 87 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) which recognizes the right to form unions for state employees. Moreover, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recognized the right to collective agreements and the right to strike for Turkish pubic workers in 2 decisions, when the court determined a violation of trade union rights and the freedom of association in both cases.
"The government was supposed to amend the laws a long time ago"

If the ECHR determines a violation of rights, the countries recognizing the court's authority are required to amend the regulations subject to the violation.

Public Workers Unions Confederation (KESK) legal advisor Öztürk Türkdoğan talked to bianet about the amendments the government needs to enforce:

- The Public Servants Unions Law No. 4688 has to include the right to collective agreements and the right to strike.

- Law No. 657 must lift the ban to strike for state officers. The judiciary does not take the law into account anymore and invalidates discipline penalties given to state officers in this context.

- The process of "collective negotiation" should be skipped and a process of collective bargaining with the public workers should be initiated instead.
ECHR recognized right to collective agreements and the right to strike

The ECHR convicted Turkey 2 years ago upon the case of union member Erhan Karaçay. The ECHR overruled the penalty that had been given to Karaçay for participating in union activities. Also the court in Strasbourg indicated the public servants' right to strike.

In a decision from last year concerning the Union for All Municipality and Local Management Service Workers, the ECHR pointed out that public servants in Turkey do have the right to collective agreements, saying that "if there is no right to collective agreements, union rights are worthless".
"This problem will persist"

Türkdoğan warned that this problem will be brought up in the future by the European Council and the European Union if the government does not enforce the according amendments. However, in Türkdoğan's opinion, the government aims to gain time: "The government tries to gain time because they do not want to allocate the referring share of the budget to the public workers. While their share of the budget was 46 percent 10 years ago, today the share has been reduced to about 20 percent. This IMF application beyond the IMF program suits the government. Yet, sooner or later they will have to face reality".
Collective agreement is not the same as collective negotiations

Türkdoğan explains the difference between "collective bargaining/agreement/strike" and "collective negotiations":

"For collective negotiations the full authority lays with the Council of Ministers. No matter whether they agree or not, the Council of Ministers has the last word. If an agreement cannot be reached in the collective bargaining on the other hand, the workers have the right to go on strike. If they reach an agreement in the collective bargaining, the Collective Agreement is a binding document, whereas the government is not obliged to apply the outcome of the collective negotiations. Those texts settle for the basic rights anyways. This year the government did not even sign the Collective Negotiations memorandum of understanding. The government did not deviate of its position one single millimetre. They announced a raise of 2.5 percent plus another 2.5 percent and that is what was done". (TK/VK)