Workers determined to stop austerity
On 18 and 25 March, twelve trade unions are organizing 2-hour strikes and demonstrations in the three main cities in North Cyprus – Famagusta, Kyrenia and Nicosia. A two hour strike already took place on 11th. These strikes are part of a wider campaign against the austerity package that Republican Turkish Party (CTP)/ Democratic Party (DP) coalition government. The coalition of the traditional social democratic party with the centre right party is carryout out cuts that are part of the government’s economic protocol signed with the Turkish government.
Since 2009 trade unions in the north have been fighting against the so called ‘Immigration Law’ – a package of neoliberal measures that the Turkish government imposed as part of the agreement of the last protocol (which sees Turkey finance the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus government budget).
Turkey finances almost 30% of the budget of North Cyprus. Since the mid-1990s the protocols signed between the Turkish government and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have included neoliberal measures, which saw factories shut down and the economy made more dependent on the financial sector.
The latest package, which started to be implemented in 2011, saw public sector workers lose 30% of their purchasing power, and the new hires in the public sector are forced to work with salaries that are under the poverty line. The Automatic Indexing has been frozen, and the public employee’s minimum wage has declined by 14.72%. The retirement age has risen from 50 to 60 years in both public and private sectors. Collective agreements are almost canceled in every private sector. The Turkish Cypriot Airlines (KTHY) became bankrupt and privatized. Privatisation of telecommunications and electricity services are next in line.
At the same time that the government say they have no more money for the budget, they continue to deceive workers and give benefits and tax relieves to big capital.
Three governments removed
Due to the 2009 strike wave against the cuts package, the CTP (traditional social democratic government) was forced to resign and go for early elections. The National Unity Party (UBP – traditional right wing party) came to power with the promise that they will not implement the package, but they did. In 2011, even though there was a huge strike wave and demonstrations involving more than 80,000 people – even the Turkish PM Erdogan commented on the demonstrators’ banners – the CTP, then in opposition, sabotaged the momentum and the struggle ended without any results for workers. In 2013, the CTP went into government with the DP, again promising to freeze the cuts package. However they continued to carry out cuts.
Some of the trade unions have started their struggle against the package since September. Primary and secondary teachers started campaigning against the package during their holiday period, by not only picketing the ministerial offices, but also by going from village to village to inform the people about the law.
The public sector union, KTAMS, went on strike on 16 February, and the next day a coalition of 12 unions in the public and private sector was formed and started organising a series of strikes.
In negotiations with the trade unions, the CTP/DP government promised they will sign a new protocol with Turkey after the presidential elections in the North, which take place on 17 April. However no-one believes that the protocol will not include more cuts and privatisations.
Working people in north Cyprus are determined to continue the struggle this time until the package is cancelled and austerity is stopped. The three dates for district general strikes are just the beginning. Primary and secondary teachers hired after 2011 went on 48 hour strikes on 11th and 12th March.
Workers demand: No more salary cuts; Cancel the ‘Immigration Law’ that includes cuts and privatisations ; For newly hired public sector workers to be paid the same as e their colleagues hired before 2011; Restart automatic Indexing; Stop privatisations; Bring back collective agreements to the private sector.
The austerity that is imposed in north Cyprus is no different from the one that is imposed by the Troika – the ECB, European Commission and IMF – in different parts of Europe. In North Cyprus, however, the “financial help” from the Turkish government is coated with the rhetoric of “peace keeping” and “protection”. However for Turkish Cypriot workers austerity measures mean poverty and forced emigration to find work.
Solidarity is needed for their struggle. New Internationalist Left in Cyprus (NEDA-CWI) calls for the workers across Europe to show solidarity with the Turkish/Cypriot workers.
Please send solidarity letters to striking unions: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Send protest letters to the government in North Cyprus (TRNC – Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). To the Prime Minister: Özkan Yorgancıoğlu, firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: (0392) 227 52 81.
Send copies of both to: email@example.com
To the Minister of Finance: Zeren Mungan, Fax: (0392) 22 92 297. And to the Deputy Prime Minister Serdar denktaş fax: (0392) 22 79 675