Turkey: Ranked Among Lowest for Employment Conditions

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By Jenny David

July 28—According to the International Trade Union Confederation, Turkey is one of the “worst countries in the world to work in” in 2015. The ITUC, which annually ranks workers' rights in 141 countries on a scale from 1 down to 5+, gave Turkey a 5 for “depriving most workers of their right to freely associate and bargain collectively for fair wages and working conditions.”

In countries rated 5 and 5+—those providing “no guarantee of rights”—workers are “exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labor practices,” the ITUC said.

Worker safety standards have not kept pace with a decade of rapid economic growth and a construction boom in Turkey, the report said, noting that the country suffered its deadliest industrial accident in May 2014 when 301 coal miners died after an underground explosion at the Soma mine.

The Turkish government uses a “regressive” Law on Trade Unions and Collective Agreements “on a routine basis, to stifle workers from exercising their right to strike,” the report continued. The government has broken up nine major strikes since 2000, the latest in June 2004 a strike in the glass industry disbanded on the grounds that it posed a risk to “public health and national security.” In addition, the Turkish army intervened against striking workers at the Sutas dairy plant in Karacabey in 2014 after “management had tried to break the strike by pouring 13 tons of liquid manure on the sit-in area.”

The Turkish police and army are also used to exert pressure on labor and trade union organizers and to prevent public protests and demonstrations, the ITUC said, noting that “dozens of trade union activists are still in detention in Turkey, as Turkish unions continue to be deprived of their right to strike and to undertake peaceful protest action.”

The report compared Turkish employers to those in countries such as Hong Kong, Korea and Spain, which use tactical dismissals, nonrenewal of contracts and wage and bonus cuts against workers trying to negotiate improved working conditions.

Last Place for Migrant Employment Policies

The 2015 Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) meanwhile found that Turkey is not only failing to integrate migrants, but actually hindering their integration.

The report, conducted by the Barcelona Center for International Affairs and the Migration Policy Group, ranked Turkey in last place among 38 developed nations for its migrant employment policies. Amid an increased flow of refugees from Syria, “immigrant workers and their families have restricted rights and little-to-no state support,” the report said. The situation is “critically unfavorable” for labor market mobility, education and political participation “even compared to other new countries of immigration in Central and Southeastern Europe.”

In addition to the lowest overall employment rate among MIPEX countries, Turkey offers workers the least protection against discrimination because it does not yet have a dedicated antidiscrimination law or agency, the report said. Moreover, immigrants face one of the “least favorable paths to a more limited long-term residence permit, far below European Union (EU) standards.”

“Reform of Turkey's asylum and migration policies is now less about relations and accession to the EU and more about the future of the now 1.7 million registered Syrian refugees living in Turkey,” the report said, projecting that the refugee community will reach 2.5 million by the end of 2015, making Turkey host to the world's largest refugee population, 250,000 of whom live in 25 refugee camps, with the rest scattered in cities across the country.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jenny David in Istanbul at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

The ITUC study is available at http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/survey_global_rights_index_2015_en.pdf, the MIPEX findings at http://www.mipex.eu/turkey.

For more information on Turkish HR law and regulation, see the Turkey primer.

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