Impending Strike in Metal Industry

Türk Metal (Union of Turkish Metal Workers), affiliated to Türk-İş (the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions), took the decision to go on strike as the collective bargaining rounds ended up in disagreement between trade unions organized in metal industry and MESS (The Association of Turkish Metalware Industrialists). Türk Metal announced the strike would start in 60 days. Çelik-İş (Union of Iron, Steel, Metal and Metalware Workers) which is affiliated to Hak-İş, another confederation, also took the same decision. The process of the collective bargaining negotiations between MESS and United Metalworkers’ Union (Birleşik Metal İş) which is affiliated to DİSK is also at the point of a deadlock which might lead to a decision to strike.

While 115.000 metalworkers are covered by MESS negotiations, the decision of strike involves workers in most of metal plants such as Renault, Tofaş, Arçelik, Otokar, Karsan, Mercedes Benz, MAN, Ford Otosan, Compenanta, Türk Traktör, Delphi, Çolakoğlu, Borusan Mannesman, Gamak, Eti Alüminyum.

Türk Metal announced that they demand 0.4 liras increase for their members who earn under 5.5 liras per hour and then 18 percent increase for all for the first six months. But MESS proposed a 4.6 percent increase for the first six months. MESS forces workers to accept flexible work. They also attempt to cut bonuses in different complicated formulas.

Executive board of Türk Metal gives the impression that they are determined to go on strike. About MESS’s proposal they say “MESS’s proposal is equal to 2 liras daily, which is totally unacceptable”.

In fact, Türk Metal is a collaborationist union. They are complicit in dismissal of combative workers, and put pressure on workers in workplaces through co-opted shop stewards who work under strict command of the union bureaucracy. The main reason why Türk Metal wants to give the impression that they are somehow a fighting union is the growing discontent among rank-and-file workers. A clear expression of this fact was the recent attempt of workers in some important plants such as Bosch to quit from Türk Metal and join Birleşik Metal-İş (a DİSK affiliate) which they consider a combative union. Another reason is the ambition of Türk Metal bureaucracy to take control of Türk-İş, which leads them to raise their profile to gain support within Türk-İş. It is quite unlikely for Türk Metal to implement the decision to go on strike. Even if they start a strike they will certainly try to make it as short-term and ineffective as possible. Yet this decision itself is not insignificant, which already caused a stir among workers.

Renault plant in Bursa is one of the plants to go on strike if the decision is to be implemented. Thousands of workers in this factory had stopped production on 12 November in protest against the draft contract announced by Türk Metal. Stoppage was started by those workers at 16.00-24.00 shift. In order to prevent the workers of next shift to come to the plant and join the action which could develop into an occupation, managers and the Türk Metal gang which has always served as faithful lackeys of bosses cancelled the next shift. Managers called every worker and told them not to come to work.

Workers of 16.00-24.00 shift stopped work and held a protest inside the plant and thousands of workers from 24.00-08.00 shift gathered in front of the factory. During these protests workers chanted slogans such as: “Türk Metal, shove it your draft” “Treacherous Türk Metal”, “We are workers, we are right, we will win!”, “Down with Türk Metal”, “Notary will come and we’ll quit Türk Metal”. They mentioned notary as it is necessary to legally quit a union and join another. In this case they expressed their demand to get rid of Türk Metal and join Birleşik Metal-İş. This was a clear threat for Türk Metal bureaucracy.

Workers from Bosch plant, who had resigned from Türk Metal on 14 February and joined Birleşik Metal-İş, set out to go to Renault plant to support Renault workers. But Türk Metal gang attacked them with knives and batons. Three workers were wounded during the attack. And the attacks continued. 34 Renault workers were dismissed and the strike could not go on due to these attacks used as a threat of dismissal over other workers.

Now a strike in metal industry is on the agenda. It is highly likely that the union bureaucracy will sell workers by signing sell-out contracts and end the dispute. Metal workers can defeat this trick only by relying on their own power based on their grassroots organisation.

25 May 2013