One of the important dynamics of the class struggles in Turkey is the actions of metalworkers. Particularly in periods of collective bargaining, the tendency to conflict or compromise between bosses and workers has a positive or negative impact on the general class struggle.
By Esat Erdogan – December 27, 2021
There are many profitable and strategic metal factories for the Turkish bourgeoisie. For this reason, strikes and protests affect not only the workplace where the strike took place but also many strategic businesses for the bourgeoisie and hundreds of sub-industry factories connected with them. And naturally, it concerns the working class of the whole country. That is why metal workers are often faced with direct interventions by governments (in the context of suppressing workers’ struggles).
We experienced the enormous impact of the determined struggles of the metalworkers during the “metal storm” actions. After an agreement could not be reached in the collective negotiations, a wave of strikes started in the member workplaces of Birlesik Metal-Is (BMIS-Unified Metal Workers Union) in January 2015. A few months after the withdrawal of this wave, on April 26, workers ( from biggest automotive factories) from Türk Metal (Turkish Metal Workers Union-Right Tendency Union) made a press statement in Bursa city square and wanted to protest the agreements made behind secret doors. And during that statement, Türk Metal’s mercenaries attacked the workers. And the terror of the union mafia aroused the workers. The anger and actions of the Turkish metalworkers turned into a storm. The struggle spread to many factories and cities. However, this anger and activity could not be transformed into a larger organization.
This year, new collective bargaining agreements were entered into with wages that melted under a great economic crisis and high inflation. Naturally, metal workers want to protect their melting wages and social rights. All the gains of the workers, which they have gained through struggles for many years, are disappearing with the crisis. However, almost all of the big metal bosses closed the years 2020 and 2021 with profit. Ford, Arçelik, Türk Traktör, TOFAŞ, Otokar, Isuzu, Federal Mogul, Sarkuysan announced a profit of 60 percent to 170 percent in 2021. But only a 12 percent increase in offers to the worker!
Negotiations in Mediator
The Group Collective Agreement negotiations between MESS (Hardware Industrialists’ Union- Metal Bosses union) and the Birleşik Metal-İş, Çelik-İş and Türk Metal unions started on 12 October. The fifth meeting, which took place on December 7, 2021, also ended in disagreement. At the end of the 60-day period, mediation was applied due to the disagreement. If no agreement is reached as a result of the mediation, the unions will announce the strike decision within 6 working days after the mediator’s report is delivered to the parties. Within 60 days of this date and 6 working days before the strike, they will be able to go on strike by notifying the bosses of a notary decision.
While MESS insisted on a 12 percent increase for the first six months, it rejected almost all of the changes proposed by the unions. MESS proposed an increase in the inflation rate for the other 6 months. MESS’s proposal for a 12 percent increase corresponds to an increase of 560 TL in average metal worker salaries, including bonuses. MESS also offered a 19.25 percent increase in social benefits. Birleşik Metal-İş (BMİS) demanded a 30.89 percent salary increase and 45 percent social benefits for the first six months. Türk Metal, on the other hand, requested a 29.5 percent increase.
Warning Actions Started at Workplaces
In the face of the inaccessible attitude of the bosses in the negotiations, the workers also have to show their strength and determination. The metal workers, who are aware that they cannot get rights without a struggle, started to warn the bosses before they strike with a series of actions. Not working overtime, stopping work, and organizing various walks inside and outside the factory are some of these actions.
Birleşik Metal-İş member workers also held a one-hour work stop on December 21. Employees of Apram, Arfesan, Arpek, Bosal, Cengiz Makine, Çayırova Boru, Dostel, Fontana Mold, Kroman Steel, Machine Tool, Sarkuysan, Yücel Boru, ZF Sachs enthusiastically joined to quit the job. Walks were held at the end of the shift at Türk Metal member Arçelik, Aygaz, and many automotive factories.
It will be determined by the will of the workers
At this point, of course, metal bosses and the Palace (Erdogan government)do not want this process, which is expected to affect all sectors, to result in a strike. A powerful strike wave, when the blade is against the bone, can cause a major jolt. Naturally, the Palace (Erdogan government) will make a great effort to neutralize the strike weapon, using all the means of the state.
Without the right to strike, it is not possible for workers to get their rights from the bosses. Only when they are organized and can use their right to strike, action, can the workers get their rights from the bosses. The absence of the right to strike and action means that the bosses impose their will on the workers. It is clear that the Palace will try to do its best to end this process with a “failed”.
At the point where the contract negotiations covering 179 workplaces and approximately 130,000 workers have reached, it is the determination of the workers that will nullify all the games of the bosses and the Palace. If metalworkers do not want to work in these miserable working conditions, they will orient their anger towards an organized strike decision. Neither the union centers nor the Palace and the bosses can stand against this determination. While the metal bosses are making so much profit, they can’t close the factories and run away.
Another important issue in the mediation process is that union centers make decisions behind secret doors. Workers have to be on the lookout for this kind of “faint”. The Turkish Metal union in particular, and of course others, signed miserable contracts many times without the knowledge of the workers’ approval. There’s no guarantee they won’t do it again today! We have seen many times in the past the rotten union apparatus intermingled with the capitalists, the government, and even the mafia. Against these, it is very important that metal workers are in the decision mechanisms, that the decisions to be taken are taken unanimously and that their representatives can be audited. And it is of great importance for the fate of the process that the entire working class and labor parties and institutions, intellectuals, the oppressed, and of course their families take sides in the fight of metalworkers.