The Turkish Trade Union for General Service Workers (Genel-İş) took the streets of Istanbul on 23 August to protest against turning the severance pay into the "severance pay fund" as part of the 61st Government Program.
Genel-İş is affiliated with the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK). 250 members of the Genel-İş Istanbul Branch marched from the union's building to the Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Unkapı (Istanbul). They were carrying a banner reading "Severance pay is our work, we will not have our work seized".
Reading out the press release on behalf of the union, Mehmet Karagöz said that the abolition of severance pay was done to remove the "job security" for workers.
"Severance pay is the worker's labour force. It equals a one-month salary for each year against fraying at work. It also obstructs employers from arbitrary lay-offs".
"The last social right shall be abolished"
Karagöz criticized the government and capital circles who say that severance pay "is a very big load" and that "working conditions have to be streched to reduce unemployment". According to Genel-İş, this means enslavement for the workers.
"Severance pay is not a load for employers in a country with low salaries and where 75 of the employees are working for the minimum wage. Working conditions were stretched after every economic crisis. Union rights were restricted. They want to remove the last social right", the union stated.
"Severance pay cannot be withdrawn in the next 10 years"
Karagöz quoted the government as saying that "most of the workers are not entitled to receive severance pay anyways" and that "there will be no economic loss". He pointed out the following issues in response:
* We also know that many workers cannot take severance pay. However, the solution for this problem includes the stabilization of job security. The solution also has to come with legal amendments that render the employers' methods to avoid severance pay invalid.
* A worker who is earning TL 1000 per month for instance will receive severance pay of TL 1000 when he is made redundant after one year. With the anticipated application, the worker with the same salary is going to pay TL 360 per year and will be able to get the money after he has paid his contribution for ten years without interruption.
* 46 percent of employment in Turkey is off the record and it is very hard to complete a working duration of ten years.
"The fund will be made a source for the economy"
It was put forward in the press statement that the government was using applications such as "housing allowance, saving incentive fund and unemployment insurance" for purposes other than intended. Karagöz said that the government openly announced to use the severance pay money as a source for budget economy.
The press release was followed by a ten-minute vigil.
Mobilizing the parliament that re-opens on 1 October is the first phase of the protest actions that were launched by Genel-İş all over Turkey at the same time.
Workers of Belediye-İş (Municipality workers) as part of the Turkish Confederation of Labour Unions (Türk-İş) supported the protest. (NV/VK)
Picture: Gülfem Karataş