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Turkey

The victory of the Renault workers at the Bursa plant

Wednesday 19 August 2015, by Uraz Aydin

This brief report from our correspondent in Istanbul concludes our article Trouble in paradise: A cautionary tale for big capital in Turkey published in May.

On the morning of Wednesday, May 27, 2015, the Renault workers returned to work. The previous night, Oyak Renault-workers had distributed the proposals it would implement if the workers returned to work on that date. These included:

• No one to be fired for striking.

• Renault to withdraw its complaint against the workers accused of criminal conduct.

• Oyak Renault to recognize freedom of trade union membership for all employees.

• Within a month, after analysis of wages, an increase in wages, to be applied with a greater increase for low wages than for higher wages.

• A premium of 1,000 Turkish liras (350 €) to be paid to all employees by the end of the week.

• At the end of the year, a performance bonus of a net minimum of 600 pounds (200 €) to be paid to all employees.

• Workers who are not union members [that is, of the only union allowed until then, pro-business Turk Metal] to elect their spokespersons, who are responsible for communication between the company and workers. Until this election, the current spokesman are recognized by Oyak Renault.

• The sum of 480 pounds (170 €) to be paid by banks which ensure the payment of wages. [1]

• Oyak Renault will not ask anything for any damage that occurred during the movement, and in the same way workers will not start legal action and will not make claims against Oyak Renault for acts that allegedly took place during the events.

The distribution of this document by Oyak Renault provoked discussions among the workers. Some wanted to accept this compromise, others wanted to continue return to work together.

What they have already achieved is a victory. Despite pressure from the employers’ association Mess, companies such as Tofas-Fiat, Mako, Renault were forced to accept most of the demands of the workers. However, the increase in wages, which would reduce the staggering gap between workers is currently only a promise that will be implemented after the parliamentary elections of June 7, 2015.

However, two problems arise.

• The rejection of Türk Metal-İs has turned into rejection of any union. Non-union membership is proudly brandished by the workers. That this reaction to the trade union bureaucracies leads to the construction of a new independent union based on workers’ committees formed during the strike is one possibility, but that requires a level of organization and trade union consciousness that is still to be built. Membership Birlesik Metal-İs, although it organized a strike of 15,000 workers in late January, is not an option for the majority of workers because of its left commitment. The nationalist and conservative Çelik-İş union (pro-AKP) will undoubtedly mobilize all its energy to recruit the steelworkers Bursa. Six thousand Tofas-Fiat workers have recently joined Çelik-İş whose true purpose can only be to dampen the steelworkers’ Militancy.

• The second, historical, problem is the almost complete absence of the left in engineering plants. But this requires long-term social rebuilding of the left, only able to articulate the revolutionary potential of the three spectres ...

Footnotes

[1] These bonuses are taken from the amounts that are normally paid to companies that allow banks to make profits through management of the wage bill.