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Cablegate: February 4 General "Work Stoppage": Mostly Media Splash

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RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 4478
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000201

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB TU
SUBJECT: FEBRUARY 4 GENERAL "WORK STOPPAGE": MOSTLY MEDIA SPLASH

REF: ANKARA 174

ANKARA 00000201 001.3 OF 002


1. (U) SUMMARY: The February 4 one-day nationwide work stoppage by
major labor confederations made a significant media splash but
seemed to create only minor disruptions across Turkey. Two
confederations did not, in the end, participate in the work
stoppage, although they had initially committed to join. The
remaining confederations still pronounced the action a success.
There were no major security incidents. The GOT continued to argue
that the TEKEL workers' situation is not a matter of their rights
being denied. Commentators are focusing more on the nature of the
workers' 4C status, and the Prime Minister's tone when he addresses
the issue. End summary.

2. (U) Labor confederations representing private and public sector
workers organized a one-day work stoppage on Thursday, February 4
across the country in support of the former TEKEL workers (REFTEL).
The press reported that tens of thousands of workers participated in
the act, but actual numbers are difficult to estimate. The Turk-Is,
DISK, Kamu-Sen and KESK confederations actively participated. The
Hak-Is and Memur-Sen confederations -- although they initially had
announced their support -- did not join the strike. The Hava-Is
Union for Civil Aviation workers decided to heed the warning of the
THY administration that there would be consequences to stopping
work, and continued working.

3. (U) In other sectors, the municipal busses did not operate in
Izmir, and the metro stopped temporarily in Ankara. Tens of
thousands of people gathered at Ankara's Kizilay square. Anatolia
News Agency workers stopped work for one hour, as a symbolic
gesture. Members of the National Movement Party (CHP) did not work.
In Zonguldak, 7,000 coal mine workers stopped working and in
Kutahya the boron mine workers also stopped work. Doctors across
the country -- except in emergency units -- did not work, and in
Istanbul members of all of the confederations gathered at Sarachane
square. NGOs and representatives of opposition parties as well as
artists and intellectuals joined them to display solidarity. In
Denizli, workers clashed with police when they wanted to march to
the AKP headquarters.

4. (U) Confederations pronounced themselves pleased with the impact
of the stoppage. Turk-Is Labor Confederation President Mustafa
Kumlu said that the work stoppage was an important warning to the
GOT. He noted that the former TEKEL workers "woke up the sleeping
giant" and that the Turkish people now support the victimized
workers. He termed the act as a success because people stopped
working everywhere, despite the threats by the governors,
bureaucrats and employers.

5. (U) Government officials sent out balanced messages. While Prime
Minister Ergodan preserved his stance that there would be no change
for the workers' conditions, the Labor Minister tried to portray the
work stoppage as a "mature" act, but one which was illegal. PM
Erdogan noted that 450 workers had applied for 4C status so far. In
response to a question, Erdogan said the government is not
considering interfering in the former TEKEL workers' protest until
the end of the month, but after that it would have to intervene
because the workers would be performing an "occupation." Finance
Minister Mehmet Simsek said that TEKEL workers' continuing their
protests despite the improvements the GOT had made to their 4C could
not be viewed as a "struggle to seek rights." The Labor and Social
Security Minister Omer Dincer emphasized that no services were
halted despite the act of the workers. He reiterated that the
government had presented an important opportunity to the workers,
and suggested the conflict would get bigger.

6. (U) In papers today columnists discussed the issue of 4C status
and argued that with coming privatizations, as many as 25,000
workers will be assigned 4C status. Fikret Bila, a commentator from
"Milliyet" newspaper, argued that while implementing privatization,
the State should not focus just on making money but should consider
the social impact. He said that privatization decisions should be
made while weighing the "social benefit-social cost" calculation.
Rusen Cakir, of "Vatan" newspaper, focused more on PM Erdogan's
comments, criticizing him for being overly blunt when referring to
the TEKEL workers. Cakir said that Erdogan should stop complaining
about the workers, and instead patiently continue the negotiations
until he finds a solution.

ANKARA 00000201 002.3 OF 002

7. (SBU) COMMENT: The tension between the workers and the GOT seems
to be rising. The government indicates it will proceed with
privatizations and will use 4C status for all laid off workers. The
protest of TEKEL workers has now attained a symbolic status, which
can be used for political purposes. A semblance of inaction, as
well as any excessive intervention against the former TEKEL workers
-- some 200 of whom have begun an "indefinite" hunger strike today
-- is likely to intensify the friction.
JEFFREY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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