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International Verification Coordinator Margreet Vrieling recently visited Turkey. She shares some of her observations…
While it is relatively quiet after the recent protests at Taksim Square and Gezi Park, a feeling of unrest and desire for change is clearly noted with several of our stakeholders. One of the unions was actively taking part in the protest. The others weren’t publicly, but in general there was big support for the activities. Especially after the protesters were confronted with so much violence. At the Gezi Park pictures remember the young people who lost their lives during these days.
The union we spoke to yesterday is about to organize two new factories. In Turkey this is a noteworthy activity: it still happens frequently that workers when in the process of establishing a union in a factory, are dismissed. This brings me to a dilemma I discussed in detail with our complaintshandler, auditors and unions this week. One of the factories audited recently dismissed workers who were about to organize in a union. The management responded by introducing the workers to another union. Buses were arranged to bring them to the notary to have themselves registered. It seems that even membership fee was paid for by the employer. A CBA has been negotiated, but doesn’t provide workers with any extra benefits or security. All in all a clear violation of our code element on Freedom of Association.
So far so good and the finding is formulated in the audit report. But what about the remediation that we will require? Will workers ever feel free to not be a member of the union of the employers choice or even of one of the other unions? Should we in this case advice our affiliate to leave, since it is not likely that the non-compliance will be remediated? We will discuss with the affiliate whether the factory is willing to organizing a training for workers and management on their rights and on the possibilities/benefits/consequences of joining a union.
Today I also observed an audit at one of the factories in Denizli. While walking with the OHS auditor checking fire safety, I remembered the meeting I had with a board member of the Association of Labour Inspectors earlier this week. Being a health and safety expert he emphasized that fire safety is one of the main problems at factories. After the meeting I walked down the stairs of the (government) building together with our Turkish liaison officer. We both pointed at the fire extinguishers at the same time. It seemed like on every floor they were placed in the wrong position, they had not been checked since more than 3 years, but worst of all, they were not properly filled. None of them.