Turkish textile company fires female workers for unionizing

Acarsoy Textile, located in Turkey’s Bursa province, fired four female workers in March for taking part in union activities, the Duvar news website reported.

The reason for the dismissals according to the company was that the workers’ “performance had dropped.” The four women have been protesting their dismissals in front of the factory for the last two weeks and are demanding their jobs back.

According to the women, working conditions at Acarsoy Textile were very difficult and they were not even allowed to take bathroom breaks. If workers used the facilities, the foremen were instructed to knock on the door until they came out.

Female workers were compelled to sign a contract in which they agreed not to get pregnant for two years. Some workers had to hide their pregnancies by wearing girdles.

Selinay Yilmaz, who was dismissed on March 10, said they were only able to take half-hour lunch breaks and did not have coffee or tea breaks during the day. “Our lunch breaks were deducted from our salaries,” she said. “The conditions were so terrible that we decided to unionize.”

Dilek Dündar, a former worker, said after she joined the union she was fired for “pressuring other workers to unionize” and “disrupting the work environment.”

“I was never paid for working overtime and have not taken time off for a vacation in the last three years,” said Dündar. “There have also been times where I was at risk of workplace accidents, but no precautions were taken.”

Turkey was named one of the world’s 10 worst countries among 149 in total for labor rights, in a report published in July 2021 by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Turkey was categorized as a country where there was “no guarantee of labor rights,” meaning that while a country’s legislation may spell out certain rights, workers effectively have no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labor practices.

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