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Cablegate: Public Sector Workers Want Right to Strike

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RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHAK #0111 0250624
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 250624Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1820
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 4422
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 6816
RHMFIUU/39ABG INCIRLIK AB TU
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RUEHITH/AFOSI 52 FIS ANKARA TU
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUETIAA/NSACSS FT GEORGE G MEADE MD

UNCLAS ANKARA 000111

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

Department for DRL/ILCSR and EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB TU
SUBJECT: Public Sector Workers Want Right to Strike

REF: ANKARA 1708

1. (U) Summary. Tensions between the GOT and its public sector
workers persist in the aftermath of the November 25 one-day work
stoppage. The government initiated violation-of-employment
agreement investigations against some workers because of their
participation in the stoppage, temporarily suspending several; all
eventually returned to work. The workers and labor confederations
promise to continue protests. The KESK confederation is threatening
to organize a stoppage bigger than the November 25 event.
Pre-election party maneuvering for the prize of two million public
sector worker votes will likely encourage the militancy of union
leaders. End Summary.

2. (U) Following the November 25 one-day strike of public sector
workers affiliated with the KESK and Kamu-Sen labor confederations,
several ministries investigated their employees' participation in
the strike on grounds they violated the no-strike provision of their
employment agreements, as threatened by the Prime Minister and Labor
Minister. Turk Saglik-Sen (the Health Workers Union), which is
affiliated with Kamu-Sen, announced December 10, it will take legal
action against investigating Health Ministry officials. Turk
Saglik-Sen's brief cites Articles 51 and 90 of the Turkish
constitution, which pertain to workers' rights and the supremacy of
international law over domestic law.

3. (U) The State Railways Administration (TCDD) suspended 16 workers
from Adapazari, Ankara, Balikesir, Izmir, Eskisehir, Adana and
Istanbul for violating the no-strike provision of their employment
agreements. The United Transportation Workers Union (BTS), which
represents the TCDD workers, protested the suspensions. BTS
declared the suspension decision arbitrary and accused the
government of an attempt to suppress two million public sector
workers. On December 16, BTS staged a one-day demonstration at the
Ankara Train Station to protest the suspensions. Representatives
from Kamu-Sen and other unions like Egitim-Sen (the Education
Workers Union), as well as some deputies of the opposition
Nationalist Action Party (MHP), expressed their solidarity with the
demonstrators.

4. (U) Railway workers also deplored the suspensions in protests in
Adana, Balikesir, Eskisehir and Istanbul. Police detained three
union members in Istanbul, but released them without charge. The
TCDD suspended 30 more workers after the December 16 protest, but,
as of last week, all the suspended employees had returned to work.

5. (U) Following the BTS workers' suspensions, KESK President Sami
Evren read a press statement in front of the Turkish Grand National
Assembly (parliament). Evren insisted both the protests and the
strike were legal. He warned the government that, if it continued
to refuse to recognize public sector workers' strike rights, his
union would launch a stoppage bigger than the November 25 labor
action.

6. (SBU) Ozturk Turkdogan, the KESK legal advisor, told poloff the
railway union had had the greatest impact during the November 25
strike. Turkdogan said the government suspended the railway
employees to get revenge. He added investigations are being opened
against thousands of education employees, and the unions are
providing defense briefs to their members. He said that, after
exhausting domestic judicial measures, if the workers still face
punishment, they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Turkdogan said KESK's Consultative Board -- around 400 union
presidents and branch presidents -- will convene soon to determine a
schedule for future protests.

7. (SBU) Ilhan Kara, the legal advisor for Kamu-Sen, said the
confederation will request the public prosecutor's office take legal
action against ministry officials who punished public workers
participating in the strike. Kara said Kamu-Sen remains committed
to the goal of securing strike rights for its members. He said the
current collective bargaining system does not work.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Political pundits and opposition party leaders
continue to encourage rumors of early parliamentary elections.
Pre-election party maneuvering for the prize of two million public
sector worker votes will likely encourage the militancy of union
leaders.
JEFFREY

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