THERE are two million child workers in Turkey, despite the official statistics showing the figure as 800,000, DISK (The Confederation of Revolutionist Worker’s Unions), said in a statement.
Last Friday DISK organised a demonstration in front of the Directorate of Social Security in Istanbul’s Fındıklı district, the newspaper Cumhuriyet reported .
DISK said the main cause of child labour in Turkey is the government’s education policy saying: ‘Opening vocational schools in the industrial zones is an invitation for child labour.’
Families are also pushing their children to work to help the family, or to develop skills, it added.
According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, TurkStat, half of working children do not continue their education, the Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.
Syrian refugee children are also forced to work in agriculture and the industries, DISK said, stressing: ‘The EU-Turkey refugee deal made their situation worse.’
The Ministry of Labour shows 127 workplace deaths of children between 2002 and 2014, the union said, but data collected by monitoring group of Worker’s Health and Safety counts about 300 child deaths in the last five year alone.
Meanwhile, Turkey will increase its minimum wage by around 14 per cent in 2018, for a monthly minimum wage of 1,603 liras ($423.30), Labour Minister Jülide Sarıeroglu said on December 29.
However, the new minimum wage is below what was demanded by trade unions and opposition parties.
‘We have made a 52 per cent raise in the minimum wage on a cumulative basis over the last three years,’ said Sarıeroglu in a televised broadcast on the evening of December 29.
The new gross minimum wage, before deductions such as social security premiums and income taxes, is 2,029 liras ($534.6) a month.
Minimum wage negotiations started in early December with the participation of employer associations, worker unions and the government.
The final wage was determined after a round of four sessions in total.
Türk-is, one of the leading workers’ trade union confederations in the country representing the employees’ side in the negotiations, had earlier announced its 2018 official wage demand as 1,893 liras ($498).
The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK) said the minimum wage should be raised to 2,300 liras ($605).
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) submitted a motion bill urging the government to hike the minimum wage to 2,000 liras ($527).
The Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (TISK), which represented the employers’ side during the negotiations, wanted a rise of just seven per cent.
Minister Sarıeroglu also announced that the government will also continue its 100 lira minimum wage support to employers in 2018.
As part of this programme, ongoing since 2015, the Treasury has given minimum wage support to employers to help them reduce employment costs.
• Workers at Posco Assan in Turkey, together with leaders of IndustriALL’s affiliate Birlesik Metal-Is, were detained on 26 December.
They had started a march to demand that the Ministry of Labour issue a legal certificate (to officially represent the workers) that the union had already waited 42 days for, contrary to the usual practice of a couple of days.
As a joint venture of Turkish Holding Kibar and Korean-based Posco, the local management follows the ‘no union policy’ of Posco and has over the last months fired 80 union members.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Birlesik Metal has applied to the Minstry of Labour for a majority certificate that would give them the legal right to represent the 420 workers.
Gathering to march on 26 December from Izmit to Ankara and the Ministry of Labour to demand the certificate, around 40 people, including Birlesik Metal General President Adnan Serdaroglu, General Secretary Ozkan Atar, as well as other leaders, were detained.
After being beaten by security forces, the marchers were taken to hospital, and eventually to the Security Department at the Kocaeli Governship.
They were all released later the same evening.
Showing their determination to stand up for their rights, the workers started to march again the following morning.
As the Ministry of Labour and Social security then promised to issue the certificate by 29 December, the union has temporarily halted the march, but will continue it and the demand for the certificate.
IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan strongly condemns the treatment of the workers and unionists: ‘This shameful behaviour shows that peaceful demonstrations are no longer possible in Turkey.
‘But the union and the workers are showing their strength and their determination to fight for their rights.
‘IndustriALL will continue to support the struggle until the workers’ rights are upheld. This is an important step and not the end; we will keep the fight alive and continue until victory.’
Kemal Özkan visited the dismissed workers earlier in December and participated in a press conference in front of the plant in Izmit, conveying the message of international solidarity.
The fighting Posco Assan workers are receiving a lot of support from society, civic organisations and political parties. The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party CHP, Kemal Kilicadroglu, visited the workers and pledged full solidarity, in addition to support from the members of parliament from the Kocaeli province.
Posco is the world’s fifth-largest steel producer.