KESK’s views on the Application of the ILO Convention No. 135 in Turkey in the period of 2016-2017


            04.06.2018, Ankara

KESK’s views on the Application of the ILO Convention No. 135 in Turkey in the period of 2016-2017

 Although legal amendments were made in the legislation there are still problems in regard to the application of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Workers’ Representatives Convention No. 135 (ratification: 1993) in Turkey. Some of the problems can be listed as discrimination against certain trade union members, de facto non-recognition of trade union representatives, and creating an atmosphere where union activities cannot be conducted in a free manner.

Act No. 4688 of 25 June 2001 on Public Servants’ Trade Unions, of which date of publication in the Official Gazette: 12.07.2001 and No. 24460, regulates the implementation of ILO Convention No. 135 in regard to public servants.

Some amendments were introduced to the Act No. 4688 by the Law No. 6289 that was published in the Official Gazette on 11 April 2012 and No. 28261. As a result of the amendment the title of the Act changed as follows: “Law on Public Servants’ Trade Unions and Collective Agreement”


The following regulations show the amendments to the Law on Public Servants’ Trade Unions and Collective Agreement No 4688:


Article 3 –In the implementation of this Law;

  1. j) “Workplace trade union representative” refers to the public servant selected in a workplace by the trade union with the highest number of members registered in that workplace,
  2. k) “Trade union’s workplace representative” refers to the public servant selected in a workplace by each trade union apart from the trade union with the highest number of members registered in that workplace.


Guarantees for members and administrators of trade unions

Article 18

Public employer cannot relocate workplace trade union representative, trade union’s workplace representative, provincial and district representative of the trade union and trade unon and branch managers unless the fact is clearly and precisely indicated.


Workplace trade union representatives and trade union workplace representatives


Article 23- (Amendment: 4/4/2012-6289/16 Article)

The trade union with the highest number of members registered in the workplaces in accordance with the assessment pursuant to Article 30 shall be authorized to elect the workplace trade union representative.


The number of the workplace trade union representatives that may be elected is one if the number of the public servants in a workplace is less than 200, is maximum two where the number of public servants is 201 to 600, is maximum three where the number of public servants is 601 to 1000, is maximum four where the number of public servants is 1001-2000, and is maximum five where the number of public servants is more than 2000. One of the representatives shall be delegated by the relevant trade union as the chief representative.

Workplace trade union representatives are determined from the workplace in order to ensure the communication between public employee and employer and to listen to the problems of public employees related to employer and workplace, and hand these problems up to relevant authorities. Trade union representatives shall perform their duties in the workplaces for a period of four hours a week. These representatives shall be considered on leave during these periods.

The trade unions undertaking activities in a workplace other than the one with the highest number of members registered may determine trade union workplace representatives from the workplace to coordinate trade union activities which are within the scope of this Law.

The public employer shall provide, in a manner that does not hinder management and services, the means that facilitate the trade union representatives’ carrying out their activities during and out of working hours.


These amendments to the Law means: 

  • The trade union with the highest number of members registered in the workplaces shall be authorized to elect the workplace trade union representative.
  • Workplace trade union representatives shall be considered on leave for four hours not two hours for their trade union activities per week.
  • Trade union representatives’ capacity has been strengthened by reducing the number of workplace representatives by the trade union with the highest numbers of members in workplaces.

As known providing authority to elect workplace trade union representatives to the trade union with the highest numbers of members and determining the numbers of workplace trade union representatives are contrary to Article 3/1 of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention (NO 87). This article regulates how workers’ organisations shall elect their representatives. The amendments eliminated not all but some contractions in regard to the gap between the national legislation and the Convention. The law authorizes trade unions, which do not register the highest numbers of members, to elect a workplace representative only “to coordinate trade union activities.” Thus, workplace trade union representatives and trade union’s workplace representatives do not have same rights and guarantees.

Removing the criteria of having at least 20 public officers in a workplace to appoint a workplace trade union representative is a positive change. On the other hand, reducing the numbers of trade union representatives weakens not strengthens trade union’s representation in workplaces.

As KESK previous reports often underline that as long as Turkey only ratifies the ILO Conventions and introduces domestic legislation in this regard it will not be enough to change the situation in our country. It is a fact that most of the problems occur resulting from the implementation and are related to the practices on the ground.




  • AKP Government has created an atmosphere where trade union rights and freedoms, which are under the guarantee of Constitution, cannot be exercised by public officers. These trade union rights and freedoms are protected by the Constitution because of the ILO Conventions such as 135, 87, and 98. The Government issued a circular No 2016/4 in the official gazette on 17 February 2016. The circular declared all oppositional public officers, who oppose the Government through exercising democratic rights, “individuals and/or groups involved in illegal activities under so called legal organisations” though it is contrary to the Constitution and international law. Particularly post-coup attempt, which was staged on 15 July 2016, reached a level that is worse than real military coups. Fundamental rights and freedoms have been suspended on the ground of the coup-attempt by authorities. This situation resulted in an atmosphere where conducting trade union activities are almost impossible.

The AKP Government uses magical words, “terrorist activity” or “terrorism propaganda” that labels all political oppositional groups and their activities. In addition to labelling these individuals and groups, public authorities prevent and criminalise such activities and events under the same argument. Almost all of our activities and events were banned and/or prevented by authorities. The Law on Meetings and Demonstrations No 2911 is used to ban or prevent our activities. Hundreds of our trade union executives and members were subjected to investigations; they were arrested or detained for their trade union activities. Public prosecutors ask the following question “why did you join KESK affiliates?” when they take statements from our members. In fact, this question aims nothing but to create a perception that implies KESK is a potential criminal. Our members are forced to resign from our unions by pressure methods such as investigations, mobbing, and court cases etc. These methods discourage public officers from joining our trade unions.


KESK and its affiliates’ executives are subjected to trade union violations, in particular suspension, that are deliberate and systematic. In this regard, the following KESK executive committee members were dismissed from their offices: KESK Co-Presidents Ms Aysun GEZEN and Mr Mehmet Bozgeyik, Our Women’s Secretary Ms Gülistan Atasoy, Egitim Sen (that organises teachers and administrative staff in the education sector, and academics) treasurer Mr Ahmet Karagoz, Women’s Secretary Ms  Derya Yulcu, SES (that organises health officers and doctors) Press Secretary Mr Fikret Çalağan, Women’s Secretary Ms Selma Atabey, BES (that organises public officers administrative institutions) General Secretary Mr Aziz Özkan, Women’s Secretary Ms Banu Aykaç, TÜM BEL-SEN (that organises public officers in local administrations) General Secretary Mr Yılmaz Yıldırımcı, Women’s Secretary Ms Semra Kıratlı, TARIM ORKAM-SEN (that organises public officers in the ministries of agriculture and forestry) Treasurer Mr Ahmet Keleş, ESM (that organises public officers in the energy and mining sectors) Women’s Secretary Ms Özden Kaya, DIVES (that organises public officers in the directorate of religious affairs) executive committee members Mr Şükrü Akılçağı, Mr Yılmaz İşleyen, Mr Süleyman Taşkın, Mr Abdulcabbar Taştan and Mr Nurettin Kesici. In addition to these executive committee members, there are at least 330 dismissed KESK representatives who serve at local branches, disciplinary board, audits etc.

There are administrative and judicial investigations against almost all KESK executives and our affiliates’ executives in different public sectors. The political power targets and punishes trade unions by means of the State of Emergency. Therefore, freedom of association and trade union rights are under the threat and siege of the political power. Given the fact that the State of Emergency authorises governors to ban, postpone, and prevent indoor or outdoor trade union activities, numerous trade union activities and events were banned, prevent or recorded by security officers. These practices were observed even for our congresses held in Van and Diyarbakır Provinces.


Right before the 2017 fall semester began, on 31 August 2017, a massive relocation/displacement of EĞİTİMSEN members, our members in the education sector, negatively affected our trade union and Confederation.  1109 EĞİTİMSEN members were displaced from their workplaces. The following figures give the details; 367 teachers from Şanlıurfa, 264 teachers from Diyarbakır, 112 teachers from Mardin, 72 teachers from Elazığ, 62 teachers from Tunceli, 58 teachers from Muş, 51 teachers from Gaziantep, 51 teachers from Van, 24 teachers from Bitlis, 22 teachers from Siirt, 12 teachers from Kars, 8 teachers from Artvin, and 6 teachers from Batman. Even in the period of the military coup, which took place on 12 September 1980, and in the 90s, so many public officers were not displaced from their workplaces. In other words, the AKP’s counter coup turned into a repressive tool worse than 12 September 1980 military coup.


Another example of pressure on trade union rights and freedoms can the political powers’ absolute attack on public officers’ strikes. Thousands of KESK members were subjected to administrative investigations and they were suspended, and dismissed from their offices for joining our strikes on 12 and 13 October, and 29 December 2015.



  • It is not possible to say that trade union representatives’ activities are facilitated by authorities despite some positive legal arrangements in the legislation for public officers (who work for the government).


  • Most of the offices, which public institutions allocate to trade union representatives, do not have enough physical conditions. These offices are usually located in the basement or minus floors.


  • Workplace authorities still prevent workplace trade union representatives from exercising activities up to four hours though it is under the guarantee of the law.


  • There is an attempt to convince KESK members to resign from the Confederation as well as to discourage non-KESK members from joining by creating an image of “dangerous” trade union.


On the other hand, pro-government trade unions benefit from all forms of facilitation in workplaces. Discriminatory policies are practised in these workplaces. The Government refers to increase in the numbers of the pro-government trade union’s  members as an example of free trade union atmosphere! The real situation, however, is absolutely different. Oppositional trade unions face systematic pressure from the state organs while the pro-government trade union acts like the public officer wing of the political party. Public employee (the political power) supports the pro-government trade union while it exerts pressure particularly on workplace representatives of the KESK affiliates. It is clearly contrary to the ILO Convention No 135 and domestic legislation.

  • Under the State of Emergency, trade union rights and freedoms have been suspended by the Government. After the dismissed KESK were elected as the executives of the Confederation, court cases were launched by public authorities. These court cases claim that these dismissed public officers cannot be trade union representatives. It is an unprecedented policy.

For all questions, please contact us at [email protected]

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