Collective Bargaining Negotiations in Metal Industry

In their training programmes carried out in the framework of the Hard and Dangerous Works Code metal workers are told: “To mould metal is the greatest skill of human beings. The more a country is able to tame and mould metal the more powerful it is.” So Turkey is a powerful country as metal workers keep all the time working hard to mould metal with a great skill and swelling the profits of bosses. But they take only a little part of the wealth they created as their class brothers/sisters in other industries do. Why?

The collective bargaining negotiations for the period of 2013-2014 have started between trade unions organized in metal industry and MESS (The Association of Turkish Metalware Industrialists). The trade unions drafted their proposals for an agreement and let workers know the demands. These drafts are very far from satisfying the needs of tens of thousands of metal workers working in the companies with MESS affiliation. There is no significant demand in the draft prepared by the conciliationist and collaborationist Turk Metal (Union of Turkish Metal Workers) which embitters workers by acting as the stick of the bosses in the workplaces. Turk Metal unashamedly claims that it is the locomotive of the workers’ movement. But in an attempt to conceal the fact that it has not waged any struggle so far for a significant pay rise to better the lives of workers, it now demands a mere pay rise around the level of official inflation rate or just a few points above. And even this is due to its competition with Birleşik Metal İş (United Metalworkers’ Union - the second biggest union in metal industry) and included only in the draft. It would not be prophesy to guess that Turk Metal will not struggle for the demands in its own draft. All its past record proves that Turk Metal is always a servile lackey obeying the bosses’ orders. Burning questions such as the lengthened working day, the attempt to usurp the severance entitlements of workers, mounting industrial accidents are not a concern of Turk Metal.

The demand of Birleşik Metal İş concerning the pay rise in its draft is nearly the same as Turk Metal’s. However Birleşik Metal İş’s draft includes significant demands for workers to fight for such as reducing the working week to 37,5 hours without any reduction in wages; weekends being made rest days; lengthening of rest times, annual leave and casual leave times; making the bosses pay tax increases due to changing of tax brackets, etc. But implementing these significant demands requires waging a struggle that can unite the army of metal workers. Although Birleşik Metal İş puts forward significant demands, it is necessary to go into action to achieve them. Without this it is impossible to break the grip of Turk Metal in metal industry and the collective bargaining process. It should be remembered that the BOSCH experience in Bursa has inspired the other workers who are organized in Turk Metal and they demanded that Birleşik Metal İş should lead their revolt and organize them.

Huge automotive factories in Europe are being closed and production is shifting to the countries of cheap labour like Turkey. The atmosphere of war and armed clashes has been bringing armament along with and metal factories have been increasing their production capacities. As the economic crisis deepens, working conditions in the metal factories are getting harder. The rulers of Turkey seek to have a complete control over the metal workers in the first place and the working class at large. The class of bosses that do not want workers’ discontent to turn into organized action, err on the side of caution, favour and back Turk Metal as a guard against workers. Turk Metal hunts after combative workers and makes the bosses sack them in the workplaces where it is organized. The recent events in the factories of Renault and Cengiz Machine revealed the true face of Turk Metal.

The discontent of metal workers is steadily increasing as they struggle with the work and life conditions. Metal workers and the trade unions which claim to be following a combative line have a lot to do to defeat the tricks of both MESS and Turk Metal gang. Only the combative and vanguard workers and trade unions moving into action to rescue those discontented workers who are members of Turk Metal from that gang can achieve that. There is an urgent need for a fighting trade unionism which does not deceive workers, put before itself the struggle for workers’ rights and freedom and do not avoid fighting courageously against Turk Metal gang having confidence in metal workers. Such a fighting trade unionism will be the hope and strength of metal workers.

Translated from İşçi Dayanışması (Workers Solidarity) 57, 15 December 2012

17 December 2012