Turkey: TEKEL workers fighting job losses go on hunger strike

Message of solidarity from Joe Higgins Socialist Party MEP

Workers dismissed from TEKEL, Turkey’s alcohol and tobacco monopoly, have been holding protest demonstrations for weeks. Following job losses due to factory closures, the TEKEL workers started a protest in Ankara on 15 December 2009. The sacked workers demanded that the government find new jobs for them with other state institutions or enterprises and institute a six-month suspension on the closure of any further Tekel factories.

Leaders of the workers’ union, the Union of Tobacco, Alcoholic Beverage, Food and Related Industry Workers (TekGida-Is) said they will continue their struggle until a favorable solution can be found.

TEKEL workers fight job losses

Following 38 days of protests, around 40 TEKEL workers started a hunger strike 3 days ago. It is reported that “Five of them were taken to hospital on Thursday (21 January) for health reasons”.

The workers report: "The hunger strike is our last resort. There is no support from the production any more. Our factory has been closed and sold".

Some of the workers are calling for a general strike. The Turkish Confederation of Labour Unions (Türk-Is), the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions(DISK) and Hak-Is Trade Union Confederation (Hak-Is) had a meeting on Thursday, 21 January, and afterwards stated: “We are in favour of a solution without compromising. We hope to end the hunger strike. However, if the government does not listen to us and if the confederations unite, we would prefer a decision for a general strike. This is what the base wants”, Yasar indicates. (TK/VK)

Below we publish a letter (21/01/10) of solidarity from Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) MEP to the sacked TEKEL workers.

[Additional information sourced from ‘Ankara – Bia News Agency’]


Support from Joe Higgins, Socialist Party (Ireland) MEP to sacked TEKEL workers (Turkey)

Dear friends,

I write to express my solidarity and that of the Socialist Party (Ireland) and the Committee for a Workers’ International (www.socialistworld.net) with the strike of TEKEL workers in Turkey.

I had the honour of campaigning alongside your fellow Turkish workers in Ireland who were massively and illegally exploited by Gama Construction. Their strike won tens of millions of euro in backpay and was an inspiration to Irish workers and socialists.

The privatisation and shutting of your factories is an attack on working class people. The government’s offer to you, which gives you a choice of no job or work for less than a year in another state institution for lower wages and conditions, is an insult.

You are right to fight against these redundancies and to oppose the privatisation of these massive enterprises. Privatisation, as you have experienced, results in private profits being put before the interests of working people.

I salute your bravery in standing up against the brutality of the state in the course of your struggle. I understand that riot police have attacked you and have arrested some of you. I will use my position to publicise these outrageous attacks on workers’ rights and to encourage people to support you.

I urge you to continue your struggle and to link up with other workers who are also under attack from the government, such as the firemen and railway workers, and to build a united struggle against these privatisations and attacks on workers’ rights.

Through international solidarity, we will try to actively support your campaign and bring pressure to bear on the government. Please let me know of any way I can assist you.

Yours in solidarity,

Joe Higgins

Member of the European Parliament

Socialist Party (Ireland)

Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI)

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January 2010