The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today expressed its outrage about the continuing complete lack of respect to basic trade union rights in Turkey, a candidate country to the European Union which is infringing on human and fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Social Charter of the Council of Europe, and Conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“We can no longer accept that trade union rights, especially the law on collective agreements and the right to industrial action, be considered as old fashioned not to be respected. This situation is blocking trade union development in Turkey,” said Ercan Ipekci, President of the Turkish Union of Journalists.
Ipekci made the statement during an EFJ seminar on Recruitment and Organising in Belgrade on 17- 18 April 2009, following a strike of the journalists at the newspaper Sabah and ATV television, owned by the Turkuvaz Media Group, which started in mid February.
The strikers only demand the respect for their union rights and the recognition of their union by the newspaper and TV so that negotiations on a collective agreement could start.
The employer dismissed ten journalists who went on strike as well as thirty-two journalists who did not participate in the strike.
“We want the government to intervene in this case and help solve the problem. The employer’s actions are illegal according to both Turkish and European law,” added Ercan Ipekci.
The strike at Sabah-ATV group is the first strike in the Turkish media since the 1980 military coup d’état and is part of the campaign by Turkish journalists to achieve editorial independence and press freedom.
The Turkish law requires more than 50 percent of union membership in the workforce for the recognition of a union in a workplace. This requirement was met by the union and the management agreed to negotiate a collective agreement. However, journalists who were union members came under pressure and intimidation to leave the union.
“The Turkish government must make sure that essential rights are protected. To be a member of a union and to have the right to collective agreements is a fundamental right which was recently underlined and strengthened in a decision of the European Court for Human Rights,” said Arne König, President of the EFJ.
“The negotiations between EU and Turkey concerning social rights, in chapter 19 of the discussed agreement, will be hindered if the government does not take action in the case at Sabah newspaper and ATV television,” said Arne König. “We will also raise this matter with the representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission.”