Erdoğan bans metal workers’ strikes in northwestern Turkey, sparking criticism

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ordered a 60-day postponement of strikes at two steel factories in the northwestern province of Kocaeli, citing concerns about national security, in a move that attracted criticism, Turkish Minute reported on Tuesday.

According to the decision, which was published in the Official Gazette on Tuesday and was taken in accordance with Article 63 of Law No. 6356 on Unions and Collective Bargaining Agreements, the strikes planned to take place at the Bekaert two factories were “of a nature disruptive to national security.”

The United Metal Workers Union (Birleşik Metal-İş), which previously announced the decision to go on strike along with Özçelik-İş at the two factories, criticized Erdoğan for the development, saying on social media that the president “once again has opted for capital.”

“The workers will not recognize this unlawful ban on the strike and will start their legal strike at [1 p.m. local time], exercising the right given them by the constitution and internationally accepted laws,” the union announced.

The union further said they had filed a case against the ban at the Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, demanding that they initially rule for a stay of execution on the president’s decision and then cancel it on the grounds that it violates the constitution and international conventions signed by Turkey.

Many other unions and opposition politicians condemned the ban while expressing support for Birleşik Metal-İş and congratulating the workers’ determination to stage the strike despite Erdoğan’s decision.

“We stand with the Bekaert workers and the United Metal Workers Union who do not recognize the strike ban,” the Warehouse, Port and Shipyard Workers Trade Union (DGD-SEN) stated on social media.

“How many times have you postponed strikes? For just once, stand by the worker and not the profit of the [manufacturer],” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy group chairman Özgür Özel said in a tweet.

The party’s deputy chairman, Veli Ağbaba, also said that with the recent bans the number of strikes prohibited during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002, had reached 19. He added that nearly 200,000 workers’ right to strike had been violated in the same period.

Strikes postponed for 60 days cannot be resumed afterward, according to Law No. 6356 on Unions and Collective Bargaining Agreements, the Evrensel daily said in a report on Tuesday, adding that the dispute between the parties is resolved by the Supreme Arbitration Board (YHK) if they cannot reach an agreement within that period and therefore, a postponement for 60 days means a de facto strike ban.

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