KESK Press Statement On Violations Of Trade Union And Labour Rights In 2016

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To the Press,

First of all, we would like to thank you for joining us today. You, as the representatives of free media, are struggling for freedom of thought and expression in a determined way although the political power is following the policy of pressure, harassment, and restriction, and attempts to silence all opposition institutions.

We are experiencing and passing a dark tunnel. However, we never give up our hopes and belief that there is a brighter future for us and light at the end of this tunnel. Our hope is based on our predecessors’ struggle for equality, peace, democracy and freedom in a determined way and for ages.

In recent years, we have started to prepare biannual reports on violations of trade union and also labour rights and freedoms, so as to draw attention to these violations. We have all these reports in our archive. In these previous reports and the present report’s facts, most of which are unknown by the public, it is clear that there is a vehement situation of trade union rights.

Violations of labour rights, which occurred after the failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016, are worse in many categories than 12 September 1980 coup d’état.

Today, we will present figures that are about violations generally in 2016. In order to analyse the figures in a holistic approach, we present also our previous two reports covering respectively 1 January-7 May 2016, and 7 May-31 December 2016.

Before moving to the analysis of the report, we would like to state that according to the ITUC report entitled “2016 Human and Trade Union Rights Report”; Turkey-together with Cambodia, India, and Iran, etc-is in the list of one of the worst 10 (ten) countries for workers. This report has a long chapter of pressure, harassment, and discrimination against KESK members.

Distinguished media representatives,

We face practices, which do not exist even under coup d’état administration, and our rights under the guarantee of the Constitution and international instruments are easily violated under the name of State of Emergency. The President’s words “put the legislation aside” has turned into an administration form under the State of Emergency now. Given that they [the Government and the President] did not need to act even in accordance with the existing procedure to renew the State of Emergency for the third period, it is clear that we face an arbitrariness. The constitutional changes, which were prepared by Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and whose content is kept as a secret from people and workers, are discussed at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM).

Fascist policy turns into a practice that blatantly violates fundamental rights and freedoms and freedom of association and other trade union rights. Public officers’ right to strike, which we have been exercising as a de facto right and were approved by hundreds domestic and ECHR decisions, and is under the protection of international instruments, have been subjected to an investigation-to some extent-as if it is an illegal activity, particularly for a year.

Thousands of our members were subjected to administrative investigations for joining our strikes in 12-13 October 2015, and 29 December 2015. These strikes were shown as the main reason for the suspension of our members. Similarly, our press conferences and all actions, as well as activities to criticise the Government policies, are subjected to investigations. In addition to thousands of administrative investigations against our strike on 29 December 2015, there are at least 322 administrative investigations against other trade union actions and activities.

Distinguished media representatives,

While the Cemaat [translator’s note: Cemaat is the word to refer to Gulenist movement] was active within the state, there were usually e-mails and phone calls with no identity information to report false accusations against our members. Unfortunately, these e-mails and phone calls were accepted as legitimate and true so that investigations were launched against our members. We were saying that these false accusations were made directly by police so as to create a ground for these investigations. As known, recently several courts have proved that this method was used by members of Cemaat.

Prime Ministry Communication Center (BİMER) has become the new tool to report false charges after Cemaat started to lose its power.

On the other hand, after the State of Emergency declared in the country; we face again e-mails or phone calls with no identity information to report false charges, and also some investigations were launched even without any e-mail or phone call report. The State of Emergency is enough to launch an investigation, to suspend or dismiss public officers from their offices. The Government acts as if it does not need to have a concrete reason for an investigation. As for the suspension and dismissal from public service the following reason is considered enough: “Those who are considered to be a member of, or have relation, connection or contact with terrorist organizations or structure/entities, organizations or groups, established by the National Security Council as engaging in activities against the national security of the State shall be dismissed from public service.” All public institutions violate public officers’ rights if there is an issue of “the national security of the State”. Similarly, the judicial organ acts in accordance with the concept of “the national security of the State.”

Distinguished media representatives,

Another important characteristic of this period is that no public gatherings are allowed to protest these injustices despite all forms of unlawfulness, pressure, and harassment are free and common. Almost all of our demonstrations, press conferences and trade union activities to be held in different regions of the country as well as our activities to commemorate the victims of 10 October Ankara massacre were banned by authorities.

Recently, our Confederation organised “LABOURER’s MARCH” of which slogan was “I Want My Work and Bread Back” and which demands that suspended and dismissed public officers should be reinstated. We were planning to start from İstanbul on 21 December 2016 and to finish the Labourer’s March in Ankara. However, the March against the suspension and dismissal was subjected to police intervention in Kadiköy İskele Square, the starting location. Police officers used riot shield, batons, tear as, and rubber bullets. Mr. Erdal Güzel, the President of the Trade Union of Employees in Public Health and Social Services (SES) İstanbul Anadolu Branch, was injured by police intervention.

The Governorates arbitrarily implement even the State of Emergency bans. If there is an application from our Confederation, it is not rejected by them. We experienced such an arbitrary ban in Kocaeli, a city in the Marmara Region. The Kocaeli Governorate banned KESK press conference though it had allowed a bigger activity organised by a pro-government trade union a week before. As a result, police used excessive force to intervene in our press conference.

Distinguished media representatives,

Suspension and dismissals deliberately and systematically target the executives of our Confederation and its affiliates. Ms. Gülistan Atasyon, KESK Women’s Secretary, Mr. Fikret Aslan, the President of Trade Union of Public Administration Employees (BES), and Mr. Fikret Calagan, executive committee member of SES. There are tens of administrative and judicial investigations against almost all executive committee members of our affiliates. The Government targets and punishes freedom of association, and trade union rights by means of the State of Emergency. Trade union rights and freed of association are under the threat and attack of the political power.

Another point that we would like to draw attention is that the administrators of many public institutions report false charges against our members and executives. These false charges, which result from the existing atmosphere, lead to the suspension and dismissals of our members and executives. These administrators turn the State of Emergency into an opportunity to weaken and dissolve trade union struggle while to strengthen partisan trade unions because they are free from accountability and do not have to prove their accusations under the State of Emergency.  Ankara and Kocaeli university administrations dismissed academics, who are democrat and progressive, and conducted a massive purge under the State of Emergency.

Similarly, most of the public prosecutors try to show our Confederation as a potentially criminal group with their questions-such as “why do you join trade unions that are KESK affiliates?”- to our members. Our members are forced to resign from our trade unions through all forms of pressure such as investigations, mobbing, judicial cases, as well as there is an attempt to block our activities to find new members.

For example, a public prosecutor in Kızıltepe, Mardin asked the following question to arrested teachers, who are our members, “Do not you know that joining EGİTİM SEN is a crime?” Our lawyers objected to this question and asked to write this sentence to minutes yet the public prosecutor panicked by this request and did not write it. Moreover, the public prosecutor reprimanded our lawyer for the request and tried to send the lawyer from the office.

Distinguished media representatives,

Within the scope of the State of Emergency 11.711 members and executives of our trade unions were suspended from the offices until 31 December 2016. 10.692 of our members were reinstated while 490 of them were permanently dismissed by Decree Laws (nos. 672, 675 and 677) under the State of Emergency.

Suspensions do not result from the State of Emergency Decree Laws only. In 2016, 78 of our members were suspended from their offices since they faced an accusation of social media messages [which are contrary to the law] and insulting the President. In total, 11789 KESK members were suspended from their offices until 31 December 2016 and most of them were reinstated. There are still 529 KESK members who are suspended from their offices.

According to the Minister of Labour and Social Security’s statement; 135.456 public officers were investigated and 97.679 of them were dismissed from their offices until 10 January 2017.

2904 public officers, who are members of our trade unions, were dismissed from their offices by the Decree Laws issued within the scope of the State of Emergency until 31 December 2016.

In addition to the dismissals resulted from the Decree Laws, there are KESK members who were dismissed from their offices by judicial or administrative investigations in 2016. In total, 2.179 KESK members were dismissed from their offices in a contrary way to law and justice. Moreover, 343 KESK members were dismissed from their offices by the Decree Laws issued on 6 January 2017. In total, therefore, 2522 of our members and friends were dismissed from their offices.

There is not even a slight evidence for connection with the failed coup attempt on 15 July, in fact; the Government does not have such a claim. Even this fact is a clear evidence that the Government turns the failed coup attempt into an opportunity to silence all opposition institutions. AKP will be called to account for this oppression. Our Confederation continues and will continue with de facto and legitimate as well as the legal struggle against these processes despite all difficulties.

Distinguished media representatives,

As you will see details in our report that at least 122 KESK members’ workplace were changed despite their will in 2016. We predict that exact figures are much more than 122. Some of our members are worried about more pressure if they report their cases to us or other relevant organs due to the climate of fear. Since of these public officers are our representatives at workplaces or even executives, changing workplace aims also to prevent our trade union activities.

There are numerous sanctions including 47 cases of deduction from salary and administrative fine, and 35 cases of stopping advancement in rank against our members in the last year. Moreover, our report demonstrates that there are numerous cases of administrative fine, based on the Law of Demeanour and with various amounts, against our trade union actions and activities.

In this period, all of our democratic and legitimate actions and activities are considered a “threat to the national security of the State” and subjected to investigations as well as punishments.

Some administrators prove that they are doing their best to be appreciated by the high-rank authorities, which has become a vital issue in the AKP period since they impose administrative punishments on our members who are acquitted of legal charges.

Most of the judicial cases and administrative investigations are launched in accordance with the insulting the President and the Prime Minister. There is an increase in these cases also in 2016. In this period, at least 59 of our members faced judicial and administrative investigations. In most of the cases, our members were sentenced to punishments both by judicial and administrative investigations.

Similarly, hundreds of our members were arrested for their social media messages and some of the were detained. These social media messages are scanned by a special unit that has been established after the State of Emergency and is composed of police forces, National Intelligence Agency (MİT) and other intelligence units. We received a very limited information about these cases against our members yet according to the existing information; there are at least 121 investigations at workplaces.

Distinguished media representatives,

One of the most vehement oppression methods in 2016 is that arrest and detention have become ordinary, and long detention period-that is to say for days-after the State of Emergency.  At least 292 KESK members were arrested by security forces in 2016. Our members are public officers and have a permanent resident address, and accusations are related to trade union activities that mean they can be summoned to public prosecutors’ offices. In spite of this fact, so many cases of arrest by security forces cannot be explained by legal reasons. Given that 71 KESK members were detained by courts, it is clear that AKP has no problem with any forms of oppression.

Moreover, massive arrests operations against our members in Diyarbakır, Mardin and other cities of the East and South East regions and the suspension or dismissals of these people by the Decree Laws is a noteworthy point. There is a common belief that these arrests were conducted to create a basis for the suspension or dismissals.

Distinguished media representatives,

AKP’s gendered and conservative policies through targeting women first and practices in professional life continued, even increased, in 2016. Women’s rights activities such as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November, International Women’s Day 8 March were either banned or prevented in streets. Ms. Gülistan Atasoy, our Women’s Secretary, was dismissed from her office.

For example, the Adıyaman Governorate launched an administrative investigation against the BES Women’s Secretary in Adıyaman, then changed her the workplace and suspended her from her office for reading the press statement on “International Women’s Day 8 March” that was written by our Confederation.

Distinguished media representatives,

There is a worrying increase in discrimination based on trade union affiliation and also in prevention of trade union activities at workplaces.

There is a blatant discrimination in many issues yet generally in the allocation of free housing, appointment and changing workplace in accordance with public officers’ wish, and promotion. There is a clear inclination towards partisan trade unions.

After the State of Emergency declared, many administrators and security forces use suspension and dismissals as a threat our members. They aim to convince our members to resign from our trade unions and to join partisan trade unions.

The focus on DİVES, which organises public officers from the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), is worth of attention. DİVES members are forced to resign from their trade union. Diyanet, which is trying to do its best to cover its previous faults and to be appreciated by the Government, makes an anti-propaganda of our trade union and implements discriminatory policies. The anti-propaganda and discriminatory policies negatively affect our trade union. The dismissals of 54 members DİVES, which has 509 members in total, show that it is not a coincidental but a centralised policy. The Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) uses all of its capacity in line with AKP policies and needs through its anti-secular activities as well as its partial and discriminatory attitude towards trade unions.

Another discrimination against our members is that intern teachers face oppression and are channelized to partisan trade unions by saying that “they will have no problems with their internship period and appointment as a teacher if they join a partisan trade union.” 

Furthermore, there is a policy of changing criteria for social stability compensation in a contrary way to the law in some local administrations so that they can motivate public officers to join partisan trade unions.

For example, the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed on 01.04.2016 between our affiliate Union of All Municipality and Local Administrative Services Employees (TÜM BEL SEN) and Derik Municipality in was terminated by the trustee appointed by AKP on 10.10.2016. The trustee terminated the CAB in accordance with the Article 32 of the Law No. 4688. Generally, all trustees immediately target public officers’ rights and trade union decision. Of course, trustees’ approach towards public officers is not independent of the Government’s policies.

There is a systematic plan to force our members to resign from our trade union. The most known case occurred in Batman. The trustee of the Municipality of Batman appointed an executive of a partisan trade union as the deputy mayor. As a result, the Deputy Mayor put pressure on public officers and channelized them to resign from our trade union. In this regard, 150 members of TÜM BEL SEN resigned from the trade union and most of these people joined the partisan trade union.

Distinguished media representatives,

In 2016, the State launched investigations and punished thousands of teachers for going on strike, which was legal and legitimate, public officers. Similarly, the State deprived hundreds of thousands of students of their right to education and teachers of their right to work in 2016. Schools were closed or used as compounds in conflict zones during curfews and in most cases even after the curfews were lifted. As a result, our children and teachers were in an uncertain situation.

Distinguished media representatives,

AKP’s policies are getting tougher and tougher every day. People think that yesterday past was better than the present. There is an attempt to put pressure on our future through fear, polarisation and chaos strategy. Unfortunately, we are heading towards a future that will be worse than the present. Military coups continue with AKP coups.

Hundreds of thousands of cases of dismissals indicate that public officers’ job security was abolished without any legal or constitutional changes. Tens of thousands public officers are jobless now. Not only these public officers but also their families are in a difficult situation.

There is no peace at workplaces. Public officers try to provide public service in an atmosphere that they do not trust even their colleagues in the same office and face pressure!

Economic crisis is deepening and public officers try to survive since they are living in the poverty line.

KESK is targeted by AKP and its partisans since our Confederation has never buckled under injustice, unlawful and exploitation. We have been struggling for not only our members but also for all other public offices since our Confederation was established.

We, as KESK and our affiliates and hundreds of thousands of members, have never surrendered to the darkness. Nor will we surrender in the future. The empire of fear is bound to lose. Public officers and democratic force will bring their power to an end.

Knowing that there is no other way than a collective resistance to AKP fascism and a collective struggle for our future, we will enlarge our solidarity network among all other oppressed groups and resist to pressure, and repulse.

We will enlarge our de facto, legitimate and legal struggle no matter what it costs.

Best regards,

KESK Executive Committee

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