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PSI affiliates in Turkey intensify campaigns against precarious work

10 February 2013
May Day, Istanbul, 2010
Building the capacity of public service unions in Turkey to confront the negative effects of precarious work, especially on women and young workers, was facilitated through project cooperation. The project "Public sector restructuring and decent work" took place between 2010 and 2012.

Three high profile studies were conducted in Turkey on the needs of women workers, young workers and on the impact of precarious work on the workers themselves, their families and the delivery of public services. The studies were then used in the development of union recruitment, campaign strategies, education seminars and training workshops for shop stewards who then supported workplace union activities.

Turkey is an increasingly hard place to be a trade unionist. The country’s labour law does recognise trade union rights but severely limits them. Several categories of public sector employees have no right to organise. Collective bargaining in parts of the public sector was finally legalized in 2012, but significant barriers have been put in place that constrain genuine bargaining and local government workers remain without collective bargaining rights.

Additionally, the legalisation of state interference in trade union functions and activities has worsened and trade unionists are frequently harassed, discriminated against and many end up in gaol on false charges.  Until recently, this assault on trade union and workers’ rights had prevented PSI’s affiliates from tackling precarious work which has rapidly grown as a result of massive public sector restructuring.

In 2010, the unions held a joint planning meeting to prepare for three studies to help understand the needs of women workers, young workers and how precarious work impacts on workers, their families and the delivery of public services.  Precarious work was already an issue of interest to the unions, but the project sharpened their understandings.

In the following years, the studies helped to inform a major conference in which PSI’s affiliates developed a joint national strategy. The information was used in the development of recruitment and campaign strategies targeting women and young workers.  Campaigns included high profile rallies and demonstrations.  Union structures were created and a series of seminars and training workshops for shop stewards increased their ability to represent precarious workers more effectively.

Within a very hostile environment, the unions were able to achieve the following:

  • Collective bargaining agreements were signed which improved the conditions for workers in precarious employment,
  • 21,138 precarious workers were recruited
  • 6,000 outsourced workers had their temporary status turned to permanent

It is no doubt that the unions themselves would have sought to organise precarious workers, however, the project created the possibility to reach common objectives amongst all the affiliates in Turkey, to share organising strategies, to avoid duplication and thus use resources more effectively.

This PSI project “Public Sector Restructuring and Decent Work” was supported by affiliates IMPACT (of Ireland) and Kommunal and VISION (of Sweden) in collaboration with LO-TCO Biståndsnämnd (the LO-TCO Secretariat for International Trade Union Development Co-operation).

For a complete survey of IMPACT/PSI trade union development cooperation between 2008 and 2013 click here: In the People's Interest

Map: IMPACT/PSI project collaboration between 2008 and 2013

Also see