Nationwide strike held to support Tekel workers

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A nationwide strike in Turkey in support of the alcohol and tobacco monopoly of the state Tekel stopped life most in western province of Izmir on Thursday.

Public transportation did not work in the city, while public institution did not work either. Two separate gatherings organized in Istanbul and Ankara, while in various spots all around the country workers stopped working.

All six trade union confederations of the country including public servants’ unions as well agreed on to have a one day de facto strike to support Tekel workers, but one confederation Memur-Sen that is known with its pro-government stance withdrew from the action. Around 20.000 workers gathered in Saraçhane in Istanbul. Transportation in Istanbul was not affected from the strike different from Izmir, while some public institutions like tax directorate and registry offices did not work.

Tekel workers for more than 50 days have been in Ankara to protest government’s move to change their status after the privatization of Tekel. They came to Ankara from various provinces and started to live in front of their confederation Türk-İş in tents. The government wants to employ the workers in other public institutions with lower wages, no job security. The social rights like annual leave, and severance payment would be cut under the new status as well. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) first ignored the demonstrations of Tekel workers than they negotiated with them. The government offered to improve the wages and social rights. However the status of workers in their new work places, which means temporary working with no job security, did not change with the government’s offer. Trade unions then decided to go for a general action.

Tekel workers are organized under Tek Gıda İş trade union, which is a member union of the confederation Türk-İş. The last general solidarity action between workers was in 1991 to support miners in Zonguldak who went for a strike during collective bargaining process.


Istanbul's Atatürk International Airport was not affected by the nationwide strike of Turkey’s major labor organizations, as members of the Turkish Civilian Aviation Union, or Hava-İş, did not participate after Turkish Airlines, or THY threathened the workers to be fired if they participate in the action.

The one-day action failed to disrupt air and ground services at Turkey’s biggest airport, despite a Wednesday call by Hava-İş in support of public workers at Tekel, the former state-owned alcohol and tobacco monopoly, Hürriyet Daily News reported.

Members of Hava-İş allegedly received an internal memo from the Turkish Airlines, or THY, saying that the company would terminate the contract of any striker.

Speaking to Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on condition of anonymity, a press official said union members did not take place in the action because of “pressure from THY.”

“THY sent a memo that contracts could be terminated if workers support the strike” he claimed.


Meanwhile Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, answering the questions of reporters about the strike said that if Tekel workers did not finish their action in Ankara until the end of month, the government would consider police intervention.


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