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Dismissed Turkish Metal workers file complaint to EBRD

Today, Birleşik Metal, an independent trade union in the Turkish metal sector, filed a complaint to the grievance mechanism of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), regarding the operations of its client, Türk Traktör. In May 2015, 30,000 workers in the Turkish metal sector, including employees of Türk Traktör, organized mass strikes to demand their right to establish their own unions. Although the management of Türk Traktör repeatedly promised that no one would be dismissed because of these actions, 20 workers were fired. The complaint, filed to the EBRD’s Project Complaint Mechanism (PCM), claims that Türk Traktör’s actions, including these dismissals, are inconsistent with the EBRD’s labour policy that commits to respect and protect workers’ fundamental rights, including freedom of association and right to collective bargaining.

30.000 workers from  companies in the metal sector, including two other EBRD clients, participated in the industrial action. Among their demands were: the right to establish and to choose their unions freely, the possibility to choose their own representatives and shop stewards, and a living wage that provides for decent living standards. Contrary to rulings by the International Labour Organization that peaceful, wild-cat strikes are protected under international law, many of those who participated in the strikes were fired afterwards. 

Loans from the EBRD

In May 2013, the EBRD provided a EUR 75 million loan to Türk Traktör to finance the construction of a tractor assembly plant in Sakarya and ongoing operations in its existing facilities in Ankara. A year later, EBRD provided a EUR 140 million loan to Ford Otomotiv in Eskişehir. Following the massive strikes in the metal sector in May, EBRD approved a EUR 200 million loan to Tofaş Türk Otomobil. All three companies fired strike leaders who participated in the industrial action.  In addition to the labour requirements applied to its specific investments, EBRD must also assess the host country’s progress towards a market-oriented economy, democracy, and the rule of law. One requirement by which EBRD assesses progress is whether the country protects the “right to form trade unions and to strike.” Birleşik Metal raised these broader issues in a letter to the EBRD president, but has not yet received a response.

“Turkish law effectively prevents workers from organizing independent unions,” says Eyüp Ozer, International Secretary, Birleşik Metal.  “How can the EBRD ensure that its labour requirements are met in that context? How can it guarantee that its clients allow their workers to organize freely, without reprisals?”

Next steps

Birleşik Metal has asked the EBRD Project Complaints Mechanism (PCM) to undertake a problem-solving initiative to help all parties reach a solution, ensuring respect for workers’ rights at Türk Traktör. If Türk Traktör is unwilling to engage in a dialogue, Birlesik Metal requests that the PCM undertakes an independent investigation to determine whether the EBRD has complied with its own social policies. The PCM will have 10 days to register the complaint, and then an additional 61 days to determine whether it is eligible to continue with either the problem-solving or investigation stage.

Click here for the complaint. 
Click here for the letter to the EBRD President.