Teachers Strike in Turkey
Teachers demonstrating in Turkey on May 23rd
Teachers joined other public servants, including doctors and nurses in striking yesterday
The following description of yesterday's strike and its background was received by teachersolidairty from a correspondent in Turkey:
"Hundreds of thousands of public workers joined the public sector strike in Turkey on 23th May. Two of the biggest confederations together for protesting and rejecting the pay rise that government has offered, decided on strike after the “so called” collective bargaining process. “So called” because, the recent legal amendment on Public Workers’ Trade Unions Act keeps the existing barriers against full freedom of organization and right to strike. During the collective bargaining employees are represented by a “committee of trade unions”. The representatives of a confederation which represents less than half of the total organized public employees is determinative in this committee. (4 of 7 members of the committee will be members of this confederation). This confederation’s member number exploded after the currently governing party took power in 2002. In case of conflict, the new act makes it compulsory to apply an arbitration board, mostly formed of people determined by the government and pro-government trade unions’ representatives.
" The government offered %3,5 for this year and %3,5 for the next year. The total increase in wages is less than %5 and when considered the high inflation rate, wages that are already too low are loosing value. The Turkish economy seemed to be growing but it is mostly at the expense of low standards and wages for employees. The prime minister is threatening public workers by saying that they can’t offer more than %3,5 because otherwise Turkey might be like Greece.
" While public workers’ right to strike is stil not recognized by the government, by taking their power from international norms, Egitim Sen has organized 3 strikes since 2011. Most of the strikes, activities and ordinary events organized by trade unions can mean warnings, censure and wage cut punishments for their members. They don’t only struggle with sanctions used by the Ministry of Education but also other legal harassment."
There were large demonstrations in all the main cities, with a heavy handed police presence which caused ten injuries in one city, Diyarbakir, according to reports. The Turkish government does not recognise the right of public sector workers to strike, but despite this the strike was solid. The main education union Egitem Sen has suffered from police repression for many years, most recently when nine of its members were arrested for organising international women's day celebrations in March.
Teachers and students have been fighting against the privatisaion and commercialisation of education over the past year and last September there were protests from the 350,000 unemployed teachers in Turkey, who are either left jobless or hired at a third of regular salaries on short term contracts - despite the fact that Tukey needs hundreds of thousands of new teachers in order to fulfil its obligation to provide public education.