Workers in Turkey push back against low wages amid economic crisis Global Voices Français
Prices are rising in Turkey and people are fed up. The leader of a Turkish opposition party recently tweeted that he would not pay inflated electricity bills after commodity prices rose in January. At the same time, shop owners are posting their electricity bills on store windows calling for help, fearing bankruptcy. Meanwhile, dozens of couriers, factory workers and grocery store workers demonstrated across the country demanding increases in the minimum wage amid soaring inflation rates. For others, the only option left due to economic difficulties is to leave Turkey in search of better job opportunities abroad.
Across the country, workers are protesting the rising cost of living and stagnating wages as Turkey faces its worst economic crisis in decades, with annual inflation hitting 48.7%, the highest since that President Erdoğan took power two decades ago. Independent economists say the actual inflation rate is likely double official figures. As a result, Fitch Ratings “has further downgraded Turkey’s sovereign credit rating to trash, citing factors such as the country’s vulnerability to high inflation.”
Despite an almost 50% increase in the minimum wage in December 2021 and President Erdoğan’s promises to protect workers from soaring prices, Turks continue to face the new financial crisis as purchasing power has declined against a backdrop of double-digit inflation and rising gas prices. , electricity, gasoline and road tolls as well as food and beverages. According to the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-İş), “Turkey’s poverty line rose to 13,844 TRY in January, more than three times the minimum wage. [TRY 4,250].”
It is in this context that workers have taken to the streets in recent weeks, crossing professional and class lines to demand fairer treatment.
It started with employees of the Trendyol courier service demanding raises based on the country’s inflation rate and their minimum cost of living. They protested by refusing to deliver parcels and said they would not return to work until their demands were met. A few days later, the company employing the courier, the online shopping site Trendyol, relented, promising wage increases of 38.8%, from TRY 9,500 to TRY 12,500. Their victory sparked a wave of similar protests among other courier and delivery services – Yurtiçi Kargo, Scotty, Surat Kargo, Aras Kargo, Hepsijet and Yemeksepeti – and, in some cases, factory and office workers as well. .
Biz direndik, bir olduk, güç olduk, biz kazandık!
Tüm Trendyol çalışanları bundan sonraki süreçte de en ufak hak gaspında bu hesaptan bize ulaşmalı, birliğimizi son bir arkadaşımız için korumalıyız. Karda kışta mücadele eden tüm arkadaşlarımıza selam olsun!#HaklarıVerTrendyol pic.twitter.com/5gJD1X17Ev
— Trendyol Çalışanları (@trendyolcalisan) January 26, 2022
We resisted, we became one, we became the power, we won! All Trendyol workers must contact us if they face even a minor injustice, we must preserve our unity for each of our friends. Hi to our friends who resist in these cold and snowy times.
Since February 1, couriers of YemekSepeti, an online food delivery company, have been on strike outside the Yemeksepeti headquarters in Istanbul “to demand a monthly salary of 5,500 liras (400 USD) — workers say the latest the company’s wage offer is equivalent to the Turkish minimum wage. of 4,250 liras (310 USD) – and the right to join a union,” reported the AlMonitor news site.
— firat (@firatfstk) February 1, 2022
For a raise of 5500 TL and the right to unionize, the couriers of Yemeksepeti cut off contact.
“We are barely making ends meet. I have no savings. After paying bills, rent, cooking costs and my child’s expenses, I don’t even have a penny in my pocket at the end of the month,” a courier YemekSepeti said in an interview with Reuters.
Supporters are currently using the hashtag #SiparişYokYemeksepeti (No Yemeksepeti Order) on Twitter. Meanwhile, the popular satirical newspaper Leman published its February 9 issue with a cover story dedicated to protesting mail from food delivery services:
The cover of Turkey’s most popular satirical newspaper Leman for tomorrow:
‘- Who is it?
– What did you order?
The wave of strikes led by couriers is now spreading to other sectors. https://t.co/qmEcNR59LQ
— Gato Negro (@KhalilovVusal) February 8, 2022
In an interview with AlMonitor, Erdem Yoruk, an associate professor of sociology at Istanbul Koc University, said it was normal for strikes to break out under the current circumstances. “We are going through a really terrible economic crisis, and there is a rapid increase in poverty and a drop in wages.”
According to AhvalNews, “most recent strikes have taken place at companies where service providers are registered as individual contractors instead of employees, which removes most legal protections for workers.”
Factory workers demand higher wages
Besides the couriers, several factory employees are also on strike. DERITEKS Syndicate organized a strike with Şimşek Socks, where they finally got a 70% raise. Another sock factory, the Alpine Socks strike succeeded an increase of 2,500 TRY and the guarantee that those who were on strike will not be punished in any way. The Turkish union, Türk Metal announced they also reached an agreement between metalworkers and employers. They got a 65.7% raise.
Migros, a supermarket chain, is currently also the scene of a strike. The employees did not accept the company’s offer of an eight percent raise and went on strike. Instead, they are asking for a 70% increase. On February 8, some 150 employees were arrested after staging a sit-in in the store’s warehouse while some 120 were fired from their jobs according to information from the English service Gazete Duvar. On February 11, the company confirmed that it had laid off more than 250 workers.
Employees of Digiturk, a Turkish satellite TV provider, are also on strike after refusing a 17% raise offer.
In addition to labor strikes, thousands of Turks took to the streets in several cities to protest high electricity bills. According to the English service Gazete Duvar, the protests broke out after a 50% hike in the price of electricity which came into force on January 1. “For some companies, electricity bills have tripled in one month. Companies say they can no longer cope with the exorbitant prices and are on the verge of bankruptcy,” the online news platform reports. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, also joined the protests, who said he would not pay “his electricity bills until the government reverses the price hikes”, according to reports from Bloomberg.
Health professionals are also on strike
The most recent group to join the strikes are Turkish medical personnel. On February 8, the group called a one-day nationwide strike in an attempt to demand better wages. The strike was initiated by the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) which said in its statement: “We, whose work is ignored, whose professional values are ignored, whose working conditions are unhealthy and whose working areas are not sure, say: ‘Enough is enough, now it’s time to Strike!