TURKEY: Sanitation workers in the Maltepe municipality of İstanbul, where the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the mayoralty in the March 31 local elections, launched an indefinite wildcat strike last month. The workers said provisions of their collective bargaining agreement were not being carried out, and they denounced layoffs imposed by the municipal administration.
Some 500 workers, members of the pro-opposition Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DİSK), went on strike in response to the layoff of four workers in October. They launched a sit-in at their workplace. Maltepe Mayor Ali Kılıç (CHP) responded by calling in the police to attack the workers with tear gas and batons. Three workers were detained.
The police attack came just one day after a violent police assault on a protest by laid-off metal workers in Eskişehir.
The CHP based its layoff decision on a decree issued by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government during the state of emergency imposed after the failed coup in 2016. The resort to this anti-worker measure by the nominal opposition party has exposed the fraud of the CHP’s claims to oppose the decree.
The Maltepe sanitation workers’ struggle comes amidst an upsurge of the class struggle internationally, from strikes by US autoworkers, teachers and miners to mass protests in Chile, Lebanon, Iraq and many other countries, including Turkey.
The main driving force behind this international movement is the growth of social inequality. Among OECD countries, Turkey follows Chile and Mexico in income inequality. According to the 2016 report by World Inequality Database, the top 10 percent of the Turkish population takes in 53.9 percent of the national income.
Simultaneous with the Maltepe municipal workers’ strike, workers in other municipalities, including Üsküdar, Ataşehir, İstanbul, Aliağa, İzmir and Aydın, and hundreds of workers at factories elsewhere are striking or protesting against austerity and layoffs.
Last Monday, with the participation of other units of the municipality, hundreds of workers and their supporters marched to the municipal building in Maltepe and demonstrated in front of it.
As the piles of rubbish accumulate in the Maltepe district and public support increases for the sanitation workers, CHP officials are seeking to incite residents against the workers with lies. But they were forced to renegotiate the workers’ demands with trade union officials.