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Turkey - Workers Resist Privatisation

Workers Resist Privatisation, Vow to Keep Paper Mill Open

ICEM Supports Turkish Affiliate Seluloz-Is in Fight for Jobs

An emotional battle by paperworkers affiliated with Turkish union Selülöz-Is in Izmit against the government of Turkey's plan to privatize a paper producer has gained the full support of the 20-million-member ICEM. Over 700 members of the ICEM-affiliated union together with family members have occupied the Izmit location of Turkish Cellulose and Paper Factories (SEKA) now since 20 January.
The workers, buoyed by strong community support, are resisting an 8 November 2004 decree by Turkey's High Commission of Privatization that would essentially shut their factory. That closure met a temporary reprieve late in January when the Ninth Administrative Court in Ankara suspended the decree until the High Commission submits further arguments for privatization.

In the meantime, the government has tried to diffuse the mass mobilization aimed at keeping the paper factory open by transferring 250 workers to another SEKA factory-a mill that has not operated in 22 months-and employing another 180 in Izmit for three to four months removing equipment. Turkish privatization law would then mandate SEKA to offer minimal pay to the other workers for a 10-month term as temporary workers.

This is unacceptable to Selülöz-Is, and to the ICEM.

Speaking at a rally of workers and community supporters in Izmit on 10 February, ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs sent a clear message to the Turkish government. "Rather than investing in bribes to workers to give up their jobs and in unemployment costs, the government should make a relatively modest investment to make this company viably sound that will preserve the livelihoods of a loyal workforce."

The Turkish union believes an investment of US$5-6 million in SEKA would allow the company to produce various grades of paper making the company globally competitive.

Selülöz-Is is critical of the government for spending huge sums of money over the years on consultative fees to determine the exact valuation of SEKA rather that machine investment. Galvanized now by support from workers, their families and the Izmit community, the union is prepared to continue the plant occupation until the government rescinds the privatization decree.

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