Turkey: Tekel workers – “We have to continue the struggle”

Interview with Fadime, Tekel worker on hunger strike

How many workers are currently on hunger strike?


We have heard that the hunger strikes, which were originally were limited to “3 days, are now being held for longer?”

"Our hunger strike is indefinite."

How many workers worked in the region of Izmir? How many of them are here now?

“2,500 workers were employed in the region, 600 of them were women, and 500 worked in the city of Izmir. So far, 1,500 have come to Ankara.

I myself have worked for Tekel since 1990. I gave my youth to Tekel. For us workers, Tekel was like a second home. Therefore, one of our slogan is: “Tekel is our home and must not be sold.”

We have heard that on 12 February, a meeting of the trade union confederations will take place in order to discuss the struggle’s next steps. What do you expect from this meeting?

“Obviously, we have to continue our struggle. There should be a larger general strike, this time not only dealing with us, the Tekel workers, but dealing with the entire working class in Turkey. There is another thing which is important for me to say: this place has come to represent the whole of Turkey. Workers from Malatya, Adana, Tokat, Trabzon, and Batman are here, Kurdish and Turks together. Many of us previously had hated socialists and communists. However, here we had the experience of their solidarity. That changed our view of them. In a way, I thank Erdogan, for forcing us to fight because through struggling we have experienced and learned so much. One thing is for sure: we will show Erdogan his limits. It’s a question of our human dignity.

“We did good work at Tekel. It was we who produced everything, and now we are to be forced to work for 500 or 600 Lira and lose all of our rights [referring to 4/C status, part of a law implemented to reduce the wages of sacked former public sector workers. The average rent in Istanbul is 451 Lira, in Ismir 496 and in Ankara, 350].”

Tekel workers in ‘tent city’.

How has the strike transformed you?

“When I came to Ankara, I did not understand why Erdogan was acting in this way. What on earth was he thinking? How could he not understand that we could not accept 4/c status when we have to provide for our children and finance their education? Now I know that he does not care whether or not our children can be educated. In his eyes, we are slaves today and our children will be slaves tomorrow.

“The problem is, even if the AKP is removed from government, nothing will change. However, the system is the problem! Why should the workers not control production themselves! That would be my dream.”

In your opinion, does a party which organises the working class to fight for its interests and your dream?

“No. Previously, my family and I have always reluctantly voted for the CHP [Republican People’s Party] in the absence of an alternative. We feared that to vote for a small party like the TKP [Turkish Communist Party] would be to throw our vote away. Here we have come to know many socialists. They should all create an alternative together.”

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