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Turkey Must Improve Workers' Rights, Equality

Turkey must improve workers' rights and gender equality and end child labour

The government of Turkey has serious work to do when it comes to both legislation and practice dealing with the country's trade unions and the conditions of its workers, a new ITUC report makes clear.

Released to coincide with the Trade Policy Review of Turkey at the World Trade Organisation, the report finds that Turkey continues to limit workers' rights to organise in trade unions and for their unions to bargain collectively, that the Turkish labour market is marred by various forms of discrimination and that hundreds of thousands of children are engaged in work they shouldn't be.

"Considering Turkey's ambitions of joining the European Union, we are puzzled by the fact that Turkey still restricts trade union freedom. The European Commission has repeatedly noted that Turkey must make progress in this area. We can only agree wholeheartedly", said Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the ITUC.

"Turkey excludes many of its citizens, particularly public sector workers, from being members of unions. Its police and other authorities meddle in trade union activities, making a mockery of the nominal freedom of association in the country. Again and again, the state obstructs collective agreements negotiated between unions and local authorities, in spite of rulings against this practice by the European Court of Human Rights. Turkey needs to improve its importance a long way in order to adhere to the international standards and conventions the country has signed up to", said Ryder.

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Other flaws in relation to the respect of workers' rights that the Turkish government must address include insufficient protection against anti-union discrimination and significant restrictions on the right to strike.

The report also shows that although by law there is no discrimination between men and women, in practice women are concentrated in low quality and low paid jobs, particularly in the private sector. There is a salary gap and an educational gap between women and men, with illiteracy among women being much higher than among men.

"While Turkey's laws may not directly place women in a weaker position, the legal framework remains inadequate to deal with the fact that women are in this situation and that they face discrimination, harassment and abuse on a daily basis", said Ryder.

The report finds that while there has been some progress, child labour continues to be a problem in Turkey. The most recent statistics show that 764,000 children between 12 and 17 are at work, primarily on family farms, in industry and in unregistered activities. There are large numbers of street children working as street vendors or in forced begging. Though efforts to reduce child labour continue, these appear to be insufficient and there are shortcomings in the current legislation.

The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 153 countries and territories and has 305 national affiliates.


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