ILO 108 CAS EU Statement on Turkey


Turkish translation of the statement is available here.

European Union Statement

International Labour Conference 108th session (10th June – 21st June 2019) ________

Committee on Application of Standards

Republic of Turkey, Convention 87


Geneva, 12 June 2019


International Labour Conference 108th session (10 – 21 June 2019)

Committee on Application of standards Republic of Turkey

C87 – Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)

EU Statement

Thank you, chairperson.

I am speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area aligns itself with this statement.

We are committed to the promotion of universal ratification and implementation of the eight fundamental Conventions as part of our Strategic Framework on Human Rights and we attach the highest importance to freedom of association and right to collective bargaining. Compliance with ILO Convention 87 and 98 is essential in this respect.

Turkey is a key partner for the EU and a candidate country. During the last EU-Turkey Association Council held in March 2019, in Brussels, the EU reaffirmed the importance of the relations between the EU and Turkey.

The EU and its MS immediately and strongly condemned the 15 July 2016 coup attempt. However, three years later, and despite the lifting of the State of Emergency, we remain concerned over the continuing and deeply worrying situation in the areas of fundamental rights and rule of law, and the pressure faced by civil society, notably in the face of widespread arrests, and recurrent bans on demonstrations and other types of gatherings. We also underline the importance of ensuring that the Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures represents an effective remedy for those unjustly affected by the broad scale and collective nature of the measures taken in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

With regard to the present case before us, which relates to Convention 87 on freedom of association and collective bargaining, we would like to stress that an environment conducive to social dialogue and trust between employers, workers and governments is essential for social and economic stability.

We express concern over recent arrests of union members and officials during protests (including against working and living conditions in the new Istanbul airport site construction), as well as the withdrawal of passports of trade union executives and other restrictions to civil liberties such as the prohibition of demonstrations and press statements. We understand that trials are still under way and hope that the ruling of the courts will be based on the rule of law and respect of Convention 87 and 98 that Turkey has ratified.

Workers should have the right to unionize and join the organizations of their own choosing, including in the public sector. We duly take note of the allegations from KESK that restrictions still impact 1/6 of civil servants in Turkey. The CEACR in previous comments had already requested the government to review section 15 of Act 4688 as amended. We therefore call on the government to take the necessary measures to amend this law so as to lift the restrictions on the right to unionize which are not in conformity with Convention 87 and ensure that all civils servants, including those working in the justice and security sectors, as well as high level civil servants have the right to form and join trade unions. We also highlight that workers should be free to join the trade unions of their own choosing and that they should not be subject to any pressure from their employer in this respect.

Moreover, government authorities should not interfere in the programme and organization of trade unions. According to the CEACR report, the State Supervisory Council -an institution directly accountable to the office of the President- has been attributed with very wide powers, such as investigating and ensuring audits of trade union and professional organization, at any given time. According to ITUC, this Council has also the power to remove their management. The CEACR report recalls that these powers should not go beyond requesting the submission of annual financial reports and in any case not interfere with the internal functioning of the unions, otherwise it would be incompatible with the Convention. We would therefore like to request further information on the role and activities carried out by the State Supervisory Council, the investigations already undertaken under its auspices and their outcomes.

We also express concern that section 63 of Act No. 6356 and KHK No. 678 are applied in a manner that unduly infringes the right of workers organizations to organize their activities free from government interference. The Committee recalls that a series of strike suspensions took place based on these texts and despite the fact that they had been ruled as unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. We would like to request more information from the government on the application of these two laws.

Finally, we would like to highlight the very dire and uncertain situation of a large number of trade union members dismissed in the public sector as well as trade unions closed down in the coup attempt aftermath. It is crucial to ensure that the Inquiry Commission is accessible to all the organizations and all trade union members that desire their review and that the Commission, and the administrative courts that review its decisions on appeal, carefully examine the grounds for the dissolution of trade unions and dismissals. We would be interested in having more information on the work of this Commission and in particular the number of applications submitted by the dissolved trade unions, the number of cases considered by the Commission and the outcome of their examination. Regarding trade unionists dismissed in the public sector, we are concerned by the large backlog of unsolved cases for those affected by measures under the state of emergency and a very low level of reinstatements (7,5% as of May 2019).

We urge the government of Turkey to swiftly take the necessary steps to ensure a climate free from violence, discrimination, pressure or threats so that all workers and employers are able to exercise their rights under Convention 87 in the country.

The EU and its MS will continue to cooperate with Turkey and closely monitor the situation.

Thank you, Chair.