‘Code 29’, the legal “exception” of the ban on dismissing workers during the pandemic has become the nightmare for the workers in Turkey.
What is this Code 29?
Employers have to give notice to the Social Security Institution within 10 days of the dismissal of a worker. The dismissed worker is given a code for the reason for dismissal on this notice. Code 29 shows that the employment contract had been terminated on the grounds that the employee exhibited “behaviours that do not comply with the rules of ethics and goodwill” as listed in the second paragraph of Article 25 of the Labour Law.
This article, which bosses used extensively during the ban to dismiss workers [during Covid] is also an obstacle to benefiting from unemployment benefits. İŞKUR (Turkish Employment Agency) looks at the code when an application for unemployment benefit is made; if code 29 is entered benefits are not paid. Those dismissed under the code 29 also cannot receive short-time work allowance.
Code 29 is a brutal type of dismissal where the worker is not entitled to severance pay, notice pay and unemployment benefits.
For working women, this cruelty is doubled!
Women workers explain that threat of dismissal has increased in their workplaces during the pandemic with this code, and that defined as “dishonesty, immorality, sexual crimes, being unable to look family in the eye and colleagues” they are used as a weapon.
Women who were fired under Code 29 explain that they are subjected to inquiries by their families about “what they got up to in their workplace”, that this sometimes turns into violence; they experience serious difficulties when they are looking for a job, that they are “embarrassed when being looked down upon”, that they avoid looking for jobs with national insurance payments , that they are constantly having to try and prove that they did not commit any dishonest or indignant acts.
In the September issue of Ekmek ve Gül magazine, Adile Doğan from Pendik sums the scene up with “workers are not afraid of being unemployed anymore, but of being labelled while made unemployed!”
As we saw in the example of a factory that produces cleaning materials for famous brands in Çorlu last week and in Dardanel last month, workplaces that are turned into prisons due to increased pressure for production evidently employ mostly women workers.
While workers in Dardanel were locked into dormitories due to Covid-19, in Çorlu, the factory management removed the bus service to force workers to work 12 hours a day, locked the gates of the factory so that workers would not leave early; workers forced to work on Sundays and public holidays were not paid any overtime. Even female workers who had just given birth and breastfeeding were forced to work. Workers threatened with “Do not come tomorrow if you don’t work overtime” describe the hell they are going through as, “We suffer while working. Our body cannot deal with such a pace of work. On the other hand, we are having problems at home. Many women colleagues are having arguments at home. There’s no peace... ”
During the pandemic, the increase in mobbing, harassment and discrimination that women face has become a distinct expression of the patriarchal character of capitalism through the control over the labour process. Women, who previously had little opportunity to oppose violence and discrimination in the workplace, increasingly felt more vulnerable to humiliating behaviours and attitudes, especially with the fear of 'dismissal' during the pandemic.
Increasing pressure due to labour control, worsening working conditions, and sexist repression practices, combined with rising unemployment and growing poverty, for many female workers unfortunately leads to an increased feeling of “submission to whatever happens”. While this situation turns unorganized workplaces into places that operate entirely under conditions of the wild-west, in organized workplaces, for example, it can be reflected in collective bargaining processes as ‘remaining dormant’ and lowered expectations'. In this environment where refusing to accept heavy working conditions is considered as a “legitimate” reason for dismissal, anxiety of dismissal becomes overwhelming especially for women over a certain age.
Problems faced by women in working life do not become the agenda as they should. This is obviously linked to unorganized workplaces; where workers are organised these problems are disregarded and sometimes even being covered up by union bureaucracy.
Code 29 practice and factories turned into prisons show by how much violence, oppression, discrimination and inequality against women have increased; it also reveals how the conditions that subordinate and oppress women –as the second class– have become the basis for the increase of control and pressure on all workers, the lowering of wages, and the regression of all vested rights. The “normal” that is inflicted on women workers also show what is meant by the “new normal” that swings like the Sword of Damocles for the whole class. Sexism and inequality are like a “mine” that capital relies on and uses to design a patriarchal society in the most appropriate way for exploitation.