Turkish Unions Strike Again, Bolstering Call for Government to Resign

Anti-government protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park continue. Photo:Bünyamin Salman/Flickr.

A growing number of trade unions representing 800,000 Turkish workers, including members of the KESK and DISK labor coalitions, went out on strike again today.

Turkish protesters face continued attacks from police as those occupying Gezi Park were evicted.

A joint statement from KESK and DISK announced:

The people’s resistance and mobilization is in its 20th day. Since 8 pm last night, in Taksim Square and many districts there have been non-stop clashes with police. Police attacks over peaceful protestors with excessive violence, with pepper and tear gases, water cannons and water with liquid pepper gas and plastic bullets.

At the end of last week there was talk of compromise as the Turkish prime minister offered to halt construction of a shopping mall in Gezi Park to placate demonstrators. But that’s too little, too late, labor groups said:

However, this is not sufficient for people. If government had stated this 20 days ago, this might be a solution. However, in this 20 days, 5 people died, almost 7,000 people were injured. 15 people lost their eyes. There are 50 heavily injured people. Thousands of people were taken under custody.

In all cities millions poured to the streets demanding resignation of the government. The number of people joined this mobilization is estimated to be as almost 10 million by press but this may be higher. Government now tried to limit all mobilization to Gezi Park issue and make propaganda to spare "innocent-pacifist environmentalists vs. marginal, illegal groups." People oppose and object this issue.

And Al Jazeera reports the government may bring in the army:

The Turkish deputy prime minister… Bulent Arinc on Monday said the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) could be pressed into action if the police failed to restore order.

"What is required of us is to stop if there is a protest against the law. Here is the police, if not enough gendarme, if not TSK," he said in a televised interview to the A Haber channel.



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KESK’s statement on today’s strikes:

Our strike action has started enthusiastically in entire provinces of the country!

Freedom lover laborers who are striking a claim on their future has started taking the streets in entire provinces of Turkey in order to demonstrate their democratic responses to the ruling of AKP which have transformed country into a hell by inserting its authoritarian practices.

Meeting at 16:00 in Tünel in İstanbul, at 12:30 in Kolej Square in Ankara and at 13:00 in Basmane in İzmir, laborers have been on the streets of central provinces of Turkey.

Due to the mass participation in the demonstrations, political power put a policy of threat, repression and intimidation into action. Initially Minister of Interior Affairs and the others should give up their challenging statements and threats. Such threats clearly violate firstly Article 90 of Turkish Constitution and international conventions and agreements including those of ILO [the International Labor Organization of the UN].

As Labor Notes has reported, Turkey’s unions are no strangers to conflict with Erdogan and his authoritarian tactics:

Last year Turkish police took 71 union members and leaders into custody, after raiding the KESK offices and searching members’ homes. They were charged with “being a member of an illegal organization” for participating in meetings and strikes. Some of those leaders are still in jail.

Now anti-government protests have united a wide range of Turkish civilians, from students and labor activists to the country’s middle class. Protesters complain of Erdogan’s increasing authoritarian and religious tendencies, in a country known for being a secular democracy.

For more on the role of Turkish unions in the anti-government protests, click here.

You can support the Turkish protesters by signing this petition sponsored by LabourStart, DISK, and the International Trade Union Confederation.

Samantha Winslow is co-director of Labor Notes.samantha@labornotes.org