North Cyprus: General strike called for 28 January

Workers and youth resist UBP government’s austerity measures

The following text is from a leaflet by CWI supporters that is distributed today during a general strike in north Cyprus.

The UBP (National Unity Party), in power in Northern Cyprus for the last two years, has carried out huge cuts in workers’ salaries, cut allowances and other benefits, decreased the initial salary for public sector workers by 1000 liras, and will scrap automatic indexing.

At the same time, they have raised taxation on pensions, privatised Turkish Cypriot Airlines, and they want to attack unions and the rights of workers to unionise freely.

These measures were first put forward by the previous CTP (Republican Turkish Party United Forces) government. Under the pressure and the mobilisation of the trade unions, it was stopped and the CTP went to the polls. The measures can also be stopped this time, as well.

The attacks are similar to the attacks that the workers all over Europe face. They are imposed in the name of the economic crisis and aim to make the workers, and not the capitalists, pay for the crisis.

The struggle must continue and escalate

The workers’ struggle started in October 2009, when the first general strike organised. Since then, there have been many strikes and actions organised, but the government will not easily back down.

On the 11 January, some sectors, like workers in the courts, customs and teachers at Ataturk Teachers Academy (AOA) went on an indefinite strike action.

Some other sectors, like primary school teachers, secondary school teachers and university workers held 24-hour strikes since the beginning of the year. Even the private education sector, in the district of Kyrenia, went on strike for one day.

The will of the workers is strong. As Devrim Barçin, the organisational secretary of KTAMS (the public sector workers’ union), which is on strike for 12 days now, told us: “If the government does not take the austerity measures back, or not negotiate with us, we will continue with indefinite strike even after Friday [the day of the 24 hour general strike]”.

The participation of workers in the strikes is very high. In the case of the court strike, workers’ participation is 98%. In the AO Academy, participation is 100%. The participation in the general strike is expected to be respectfully high, and more than 15,000 people are expected to demonstrate in the centre of Nicosia (North Cyprus).

The youth also raise their voice

The KGP (Cypriot Youth Platform) and AOA students’ union, called a demonstration on the 27 January to declare their opposition to the austerity measures and to fight for their own demands as youth.

Diren Çakılcı, the organiser of KGP told us: “The measures that are the same as the ones taken in Greece, Spain, and Portugal, are the same with what AKP [government] in Turkey is imposing and what UBP now is imposing to us.

“We are against this neo-liberal attack, but also we want to raise our demands as youth. The situation that the austerity measures will create, will make living in Cyprus unbearable and therefore many of our youth do not want to come back to live in Cyprus or we have to migrate in order to find a better future. We want to stop that. We want to be able to decide for our future”.

The AOA students, who managed to stop the privatisation of their university in the past through their struggles, co-organised the demonstration on the 27 January and supported the Union Platform of 28 January.

“Education is our right, and has to be free,” Onur Emir Bütüner, the president of the student union, told us: “We need to struggle against any privatisation and neo-liberal measures”.

Youth Against Nationalism [CWI in South Cyprus] supports the struggles of the Turkish Cypriot youth and workers against the neo-liberal measures that are being imposed by UBP.

These attacks are part of the neo-liberal agenda that we see in all countries of Europe and internationally. It is the real face of capitalism, which wants to make workers pay for the global economic crisis, to undermine the lives of the working class and youth and to increase the profits of the ruling elites and the big capital. In the case of North Cyprus, this comes under the directives of the government of Turkey; in South Cyprus under the directives of the European Union; in Greece and Turkey under the name of IMF – but they are everywhere the same!

And the parties that implement these measures, whether called “socialist”, “centre right”, “centre left” or whatever are all neo-liberal parties, acting in the interests of big capital and against the interests of workers and the youth.

In all these attacks against youth and workers’ rights, we should stand united and fight together in solidarity.

Our needs will never be met under the capitalist system. We need to struggle for a society for the needs of the workers and the youth and not profit. For a society in which the productive forces and the state will be under the democratic control and management of the workers and youth – we need a democratic socialist society!

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January 2011