05 June 2019 12:01

Workers fighting for trade union rights enter Eid in struggle

Workers fighting for trade union rights at Kale Conveyor, Cargill, Sibaş, Aydın Municipality and Muğla, Eskişehir and Urfa TÜVTÜRK have embarked on Eid in a struggle.

Photograph: Evrensel

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Vedat YALVAÇ
Istanbul

Workers fighting for trade union rights at Kale Conveyor, Cargill, Sibaş, Aydın Municipality and Muğla, Eskişehir and Urfa TÜVTÜRK have embarked on Eid in struggle. Noting that it rankled to embark on Eid unemployed, Kale Conveyor workers spoke of their decisiveness to struggle saying, “We’ve learnt in the course of struggle to defend one another’s rights, not just our own rights.”

The resistance that workers at the Kale Conveyor factory situated in Istanbul’s Silivri sub-province started in opposition to poor working conditions, low pay, inadequate worker health and safety precautions and increasing pressure due to unionization is in its 61st day.

Sezai Tekkan, who not long ago was beaten up along with his seven-month-old baby and wife by the Kale Conveyor boss, commented, “Circumstances now are different from circumstances at the time we were working. I couldn’t get my kids and wife anything. We were going to go to our hometown but we couldn’t. Our union, the Union of Petroleum Workers, thankfully gives material support but we can just pay our rent and debt with this. We haven’t been able to get anything to bring home. Today it’s Eid and kids will come knocking at the door. We’ll send them away empty handed as well. I mean, it’s heartbreaking but I can’t find anything to say.”

I’VE NEVER SEEN SUCH UNITY AMONG WORKERS”

Stating that in his ten years as a worker he had seen such unity among workers for the first time in this resistance, Tekkan remarked, “I’ve never taken part in such an action before. Only three or four of us used to manage to come together. We’ve really learnt this here. We’ve seen that if something happens to one of us we can come together without anyone asking anything. There used to be arguments as well. Nobody took an interest in anybody. Now I know that if something happens and I send a message my colleagues in resistance will drop everything and come to my side. We’ve actually learnt here to defend not just our own rights but each other’s rights. These workers’ health and safety issues are present everywhere in Turkey. So, I think our resistance is not just for Kale Conveyor workers, but we are defending the rights of all workers in Turkey. Of course, we’re experiencing difficulty but let them rest assured we’re struggling for all workers not just for ourselves. I send my most sincere Eid greetings to all our worker brothers and I want them to support us.”

THEY’VE POISONED EID FOR US”

Another worker who was beaten up along with his wife, Ceyhun Gökşen, commented, “When we were working inside, we were getting far less money than we deserved. We entered previous Eids with the fear of ending up disabled. But at least we’ve managed to stick it out until today for our wives and kids so they can spend this Eid happily. Now we’ve come out in resistance. If you ask about this Eid, there’s bitterness. What with having been beaten up by boss Faruk Dağlı and his son, it was made all the more bitter. We’re certainly not celebrating Eid. They’ve poisoned Eid for us. If only we still hadn’t been able to get our kids anything this Eid but they hadn’t beaten us up and our wives and kids. They’ve made us more bitter inside. When I take my kid to the creche he cries. He doesn’t want to go to the creche thinking something similar will happen. On the other hand, those who were beaten up have fathers, uncles and relatives. How is Faruk Dağlı to reply to them? These people have families, too. I’m forty and my dad has neither smacked me nor used bad language even on one day. I’ve never passed in front of a police station until turning this age. We’ve all now forgotten about the material side of it. But the beatings up have affected us all greatly.”

WE WILL NOT ABANDON OUR STRUGGLE”

Saying that he was born and raised in Silivri but his mum, dad and relatives had friends in other towns, Gökşen continued, “Everyone used to be able to go to their hometown in some way but there was no such chance this year. Thankfully, due to a journalist brother getting involved, the municipality assisted with clothes for our kids. Thankfully, the Union of Petroleum Workers has done what it can but the upshot is that we are penniless and unfortunately everyone will spend this Eid at home. Nobody’s in the swing of things. We’re spending a bitter Eid.”

Indicating, on the other hand, that the resistance had taught them to be united and to struggle, Gökşen said, “We will not abandon our struggle. We’re here to the end.”

WORKERS ENTERING EID IN RESISTANCE AT SEVEN WORKPLACES

Alongside the Kale Conveyor workers who have been resisting for 91 days, another six workplaces are entering Eid in resistance.

The resistance of the Cargill workers who were sacked for having organized in the Tekgıda-İş Union at American food giant Cargill which started producing starch-based sugar and animal fodder in 1999 in Bursa Orhangazi is in its 413th day. Resistance is also continuing at Sibaş Gıda in Aydın Söke, where dozens of workers were sacked for being members of the Tekgıda-İş Union. The resistance started by nine workers who were working at Aydın İmar AŞ, a subsidiary of CHP Aydın Metropolitan Municipality, and were sacked for being members of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions-affiliated Sosyal-İş Union has continued for 331 days. The resistance also continues of the TÜVTÜRK workers who were sacked in Urfa, Eskişehir and Muğla for having organized in the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions-affiliated Nakliyat-İş Union. The resistance at Urfa TÜVTÜRK/Polçak is in its 197th day and that at Eskişehir TÜVTÜRK/Reysaş in its 196th day, while that at Muğla/TÜVTÜRK is in its 296th day.

Saying, “We’ll resist our way to victory,” the workers are intent on returning to work unionized and struggling until they get their rights.

(Translated by Tim Drayton)