The Wind of Metal Workers Becomes A Hurricane

The spark that the Oyak Renault workers ignited on 14th of April in the city of Bursa – also referred as the Detroit of Turkey -, has turned into a blazing fire as thousands of determined workers decided to join in.

A month after the beginning of protests (14th May), the production have been halted in several various factories, implicating that the movement is outgrowing itself. Due to strike actions, automotive monopolies have already suffered a great loss by now. Workers’ strike have not only affected the basic and subsidiary industry particularly in Bursa and generally in Turkey, but also made a greater impact on production facilities in other countries, such as China. When it comes to the Turkish Metal Workers’ Union (Turk Metal) which constitutes one of the initial targets of the workers who intend to cut all ties with, due to its proven collaboration with the automotive monopolies and the bosses, the collective agreements signed in favour of employers seem to fail one by one. The resistance phase that was opened by the Renault workers’ collective by submitting their resignations to the union brings about a new prospect as it continues to spread along to several factories in the country. As workers kick the Turk Metal out of their factories, now the time for them to come up against Turkey’s strongest employers’ union Turkish Employers’ Association of Metal Industries (MESS), has come.


Thousands of Workers Are on Strike!

Workers stated that the Turk Metal Board Members and their representatives at factories never back them in their struggle for rights and demands, and so starting from the night of 14th of May they have spread their production stoppage to various factories. After more than 5.000 Renault workers halted production on the night of 14th of May, Tofas (Fiat) and Coskunoz, Mako, Ototrim factories have also joined the protests.


In addition to these factories that the movement have already spread, on 20th of May, Ford Otosan’s Kocaeli facility, owned by the Koc Group along with Tofas, have also joined the wave of strikes. Additionally, on 25th of May, another strike was initiated in Ford‘s Eskisehir facility which happens to be a truck factory. Also on the same day in Arma Filtre which is located in Sakarya, workers halted production. On social media, workers say the boss begged them to continue production.

ford 2

Turk Traktor’s Ankara facility, also owned by the same capital group, was added to the list on 21st of May, marking that in many factories in various cities, nearly 20 thousand workers has joined the strike action.  In one video from a speech given by a worker of Turk Traktor, he expresses the general persistance of his colleagues: “Brothers! We have nothing to lose!”.

türk traktör

Besides the workplaces that have already joined in the resistance against the collaborator union, in dozens of other factories resignations from the Turk Metal and resistance, in various forms, continue. In this crucial step that the movement has turned into a hurricane attracting the attention of hundreds of thousands of workers and their solidarity, employers’ union, the MESS continues to intensify the pressure intending to break the resistance.

The MESS, bosses, managers and the Turk Metal union apply to any means possible to divide the workers: through the media channels owned by various capital groups, they send messages to workers begging them to start production, offering them money and continously telling the workers that their resistance is illegal and that they are fooled into illegal actions by leftist terrorist organizations who want to ruin “work peace” and to damage “the rising economy of their beloved(!) country”.

Police Operation to Stop the Resistance

On the morning of 20th of May, a police operation was held, which was beyond doubt a plan organized by the MESS, Turk Metal and security forces who are in desperate need to assist their dear capital holders. A police operation has been carried out against the Metal Workers’ Unity (Metal Iscileri BirligiMIB) which has by now have become the platform for workers to unite and act jointly throughout the course of this very resistance.

In police raids held in Bursa and Ankara, 11 people (one of them being Tayfun Altıntas the editor in chief of the socialist newspaper Kizil Bayrak, the Red Flag, and who was assaulted by the Turk Metal gang on 5th of, May, the date that was marked by Renault workers’ collective resignations) were taken under custody. Some of the detainees were reportedly taken into custody by the anti-terror branch in house raids. They had been held in Bursa Police Headquarters for 4 days and maintained a hunger strike protest until they were brought to the court. After interrogations that lasted 4 days, they all were released. Despite all the pressure, MIB continues to be the voice of the metal workers, inspire them in their struggle, and continue to be the leading actor, as workers continue to share all the updates of their struggle through MIB‘s social media pages.


The reasons behind this operation against MIB presents us with the clear view of the fear of capitalists regarding this very resistance. The main reason appears to be the Council Between Factories that workers have established to provide coordination and unity among factories. Questions directed to detained MIB members by the prosecutors seems to focus on by whom and how this council was established.

This very council that appears to be the main reason behind the police operation, is a structure where workers who had by-passed the union in order to establish their own decision-making mechanism over the course of their protests and take up a joint attitude in their negotiation meetings with the bosses. The workers decide all their actions and determine a joint attitude in meetings with bosses through voting, which translates into the fact that they activate the democratical tool within the union which was ignored all along by the Turk Metal. It appears so that for the capital, for the police and jurisdiction the growing real threat stands as the ongoing process initiated by the workers.

Additionally, an official complaint against 17 workers of the Renault factory currently is the focal point of the resistance, filed under the cause of “being a member of a terrorist organization”, which required workers to be present in the prosecution office to bear their testimonies. Their friends and colleagues express their solidarity and declare that they stand together against the threat directed by the security forces towards “evacuating the factory”, as workers continue to state that they will not be leaving their factories until they get what they want.

Metal Workers Stand Firm

The capital front seems to be paralyzed by this resistance. The MESS declared that one day delay in production costs 175 million TL (approximately 67 million USD) for the key industry. The process appears to be stuck due to not having written commitment or protocol including the “wage improvement” in the meetings carried out between the factory management and workers’ representatives. The workers’ representatives raise three more demands of thousands of workers who halted the production:

  • The representative chosen by workes will be recognized; the Turk Metal shall leave.
  • No workers shall be fired because of this resistance
  • Solidarity fees shall not be paid (For the workers who had resigned from the union, to take advantage of the collective bargaining agreement; although they have resigned by law, legally they have to pay a solidarity fee to the certified union. Workers want disposal of this obligation.)


Now it is time for the capital front to panic, particularly because the production in Renault stopped, Renault’s Morocco facility had also had to stop the production. Likewise, the production in Romania has also been largely affected. It is also reported that in factories in Spain and France, there occured some difficulties in the production processes. Due to this huge loss in production, Renault management have declared they would like to meet the demands of workers including the wage improvement, however the MESS, in full awareness that this would affect hundreds of thousands of metal workers’ struggle, have opposed, and no aggreement has been concluded by now in Renault . The Turk Metal also informs workers that they have caused a great damage to their country’s economy and thus workers must stop this resistance.  So, it becomes obvious that resisting metal workers are in confrontation with the capitalist class, as a whole. And this shadows forth that the struggle will have to expect harder days in future.

As the factory managements keep having consecutive meetings with workers’ representatives, it comes as news, that Coskunoz, seen as the weakest chain, was rougly threatened by the bosses and even though some workers express unwillingness, the production seems to be back to normal. In other news, as of 22nd of May, Tofas and Mako have agreed on three points:

  • Workers who were involved in these protests will be fired.
  • The Turk Metal will permanently leave Tofas and Mako immediately, the workers will elect their own representatives as soon as possible.
  • Regarding the wages: Tofas and Mako will pay the workers, 1000 TL for a week. In 2015; 2400 TL and in 2016 2400 TL will be distributed to workers divided in months.

Although, this alone can be previewed as a success, there still is a problem regarding the wage question. The main goal was to increase the hourly wage!  The same agreement has been presented to Renault and the workers did not accept these terms! They are firm on their demand for the increase in their hourly wages. In Ototrim an agreement has been signed and it proposes that wages will be increased in accordance with Renault workers’ increase. Ford workers also continue their strike.


As resignations from the Turk Metal continue, through social media in many other factories workers share their displeasure and eagerness to commence a strike action as in Renault.

A New Era…

Each day a new factory joins the resistance. Although some shortcoming are being experienced, the metal storm has turned into a hurricane. This very fight started as a reaction against Turk Metal, has turned into a war between the capitalists and workers. Metal workers are in a very hard struggle and this enourmous strike against the slavery conditions and the syndicate bureaucracy has become focal point of the resistance. Now, discussions over the existing old bureaucratic syndicate understanding has spread along everywhere, promising a bright future in this field.

Against all odds, workers still try raise the flag of struggle depending on their own self-power and grassroots they had created througout. The struggle has also created its own language and humour. The word “Harranlilar-People of Harran (a county of Urfa located in eastern Turkey)” has become a phenomenon among workers who have resigned from the union, as a reference to a scene in the movie Kibar Feyzo (1978 – Directed by Atif Yılmaz), in which a worker asks an accountant why other colleagues earn more than him, the accountant answers “Because they’re from the union” to which the worker responds “but I’m from Harran” and he thinks the boss is from the union as well so that he supports his countrymen.

Through news from sector, not even mentioned in the main-stream media channels, we can emphasize the greater area of impact of the iceberg is far more bigger than it is seen. In many factories, the bosses are in great fear. In many factories we hear that the news that the factory managements tell workers that they could leave Turk Metal and join another union or create whatever they want to represent themselves, as long as they do not halt production. In some other factories rumours reflect that the bosses and Turk Metal representatives are in full co-operation against workers, as they had never been before. It is reported that representatives visit workers and ask if they need anything, asking how they are, pretending. In some factories, unbearable shifts are lifted. And when it comes to the Human Resources departments of such factories, everybody seems to be on alert on social media against especially MIB, to see if there is any “threat” in their own factories. The fear continues to spread, as both the capital owners and the workers becoming aware of their own powers.

This movement emerges in great importance in terms of history of resistance of the working class, and not to be confined Turkey, but also for all the international working class.