Capital: Ankara
Population: 75.93m. (2014 est.)

Turkey ratified ILO Convention No. 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949) in 1952 and it ratified ILO Convention No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948) in 1993.

Trade unions in Turkey operate under highly restrictive conditions, their rights to organise are tightly restricted by complex labour law provisions. Right up to the 1990s the leftist union DISK was banned, and numerous left political parties have been banned. Generally the 1990s brought greater liberalisation, with ratification of ILO Convention No. 87, and the development of unofficial unions in the public sector, which in 1997 led to basic organising rights for public sector workers, such as teachers, municipal workers, and nurses, the right to join unions. These workers were not given the right to bargain collectively or to strike, but litigation in the European Court of Human Rights has secured further progress for these rights.

Unions must be sector level, workplace and craft unions are banned, while conversely collective bargaining is limited to the workplace and company level. Coupled with a double threshold for representation rights this framework sets an extremely demanding standard for unions to be established and to secure bargaining rights. Modest improvements to labour law in the 2010s left much of the old repressive framework in pace or only moderately amended. Strikes in banking, petrochemicals, gas, urban transport and other non-essential sectors are banned. Civilians in the defence sector may not strike. Strikes in other sectors – notably the rubber and glass sectors – have been halted on grounds of ‘national security’. There has been frequent and violent repression of strikes and workers’ protests, and workers who participate in ‘illegal’ strikes can be dismissed without compensation.

Union rallies and demonstrations have at times been violently put down by police. In 1999 a trade unionist from a DISK-affiliated union was killed in police detention. Over recent years the KESK union has faced legal harassment and criminal charges have been brought against its members further to poorly made out allegations of links to illegal armed groups. Legal observers have repeatedly criticised the apparent abuse of the legal process against trade unionists.

TThere are three private sector trade union centres affiliated to the ITUC, each with a distinct political character and an associated public sector confederation. Turkiye Isci Sendikalari Konfederasyonu (Turk-Iş, English: Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions), has historically been the largest, though its dominance is challenged by the growth of HAK-Iş. It was founded in 1952. Many Turk-Iş affiliated unions had a nationalist / secular / Kemalist character, but the confederation also includes more left-wing unions, and a number that are on the right of political nationalism. Associated with Turk-Iş is the Türkiye Kamu Çalışanları Konfederasyonu Genel Merkezi (Türkiye Kamu-Sen, English: Confederation of Public Employees of Turkey). Devrimci Isci Senikalari Konfederasyonu (DİSK, English: Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey), originated as a left-wing breakaway from TÜRK-İŞ in 1967, it has links with the Kamu Emekcileri Sendikalari Konfederasyonu (KESK, English: Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions). Hak Isci Sendikalari Konfederasyounu (Hak-Iş, English: Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions), founded in 1976, is linked to the Islamist movement, as is its public sector counterpart Memur-Sen (English: Public Sector Confederation). Of the three public sector centres listed above, only the DISK-linked KESK is a member of the ITUC. Of the various centres, DISK and KESK have suffered disproportionately from anti-union violations over many years.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Turkey, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: union leader shot and killed, mass arrests, and conviction / sentencing of trade unionists (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: legal harassment of trade union leader (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: criminal sentencing of trade unionists (2017)




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