Where Does Metal Workers’ Movement Go?

Strike wave that started as Renault workers halted production on the night of 14th May has transformed into a strike movement in metal sector in which around 1 million 300 thousand workers in Turkey either a member or not a member of a trade union work.

This strike movement which is unique for the last 35 years of working class’ struggle history in Turkey is contagious and is spread to different factories every day. The struggle which Renault workers started by collective resignments from the Turk Metal (Turkish Metal Workers’ Union) due to its intimate collaboration with the boss’ union MESS (Employers’ Association of Metal Industries), continued with strike actions with the demand of wage improvements have paved the way for similar processes in various factories.

Agreement at Renault

De facto strike in Renault which inspired all the workers who took action in different factories has ended on the 13th day of the struggle (27th May) as a result of meetings between factory management and workers’ representatives.


Workers and boss’ representatives have agreed on a protocol including 9 articles and the production re-started. One of the most important acquisitions of this protocol is that the management accepted to recognize the representatives that workers, who resigned from the Turk Metal, have chosen/will be choosing among themselves. The management also agreed on respecting workers’ choice on unions afterwards and committed that none of the workers’ labour agreement will be terminated due to strike, the complaint against workers will be withdrawn, 1000 TL bonus will be paid to the account of wage improvements in one week time to all the workers (which is paid already), performance bonus will be paid at the end of every year and this bonus will be minimum net 600 TL.

Factory management have also promised that in addition to these, net 480 TL bonus will be paid to workers as a promotion of bank wage payment.

The strike is spreading…

The flame of struggle is not extinguished after Renault re-started production. In Kocaeli and Eskişehir facilities of Ford Otosan, which belongs to Koç Holding that is one of the oldest and biggest capital groups in Turkey, thousands of workers are still on strike with similar demands.


On the other hand, police forces try to prevent workers and socialists to come together and on 29th May they tried to stop an international delegation who would be visiting workers on strike in Ford Otosan Kocaeli facility. Workers have prevented this provocation of police. Representatives from the ICOG (International Coordinating Group zur Vorbereitung der  Internationalen Automobilarbeiterkonferenz) who are also workers at Mercedes, Porsche and Ford have visited metal workers and expressed their solidarity and took information on the latest situation.


As of the beginning of this week, as the workers of Ford continued their strike in front of both facilities, thousands of workers in Sakarya and Ankara facilities of Türk Traktör which belongs to the same capital group and produces trucks were on strike too. The factory management have locked toilets and changing rooms, making it harder for the workers who stayed at the factory day and night as their protest continued.

However, on the 1st June, workers of Turk Traktör have re-started production after their representatives have agreed with the factory management on the same terms agreed in Tofaş. Workers express their displeasure with the representatives’ attitude on agreeing with the management through social media. The same displeasure of workers exist in many factories who have stopped strike and re-started production. They are not satisfied with their representatives agreeing on terms, Now the question became bigger, they are now discussing on creating/strengthening worker councils and maybe to create a new, independent trade union.

türk traktör

In Renault and Tofaş where the strike is over, the majority of workers have resigned from the Türk Metal. Besides in Arçelik which also belongs to Koç Holding, in various facilities workers started taking action. They have started resigning from the Türk Metal and on 27th May, they have made their first biggest protest in Gebze/Kocaeli. They have marched to the union headquarter and called Turk Metal board member to resign.


The protest have affected İzmir where no protests were held in weeks. In İzmir in CMS factory where wheel rims are produced, workers have protested with similar demands including wage improvements. The factory management have negotiated with representatives of workers and they have banked 1000 TL to each worker and have agreed to give the same hourly wages of Tofaş and Renault to CMS workers along with other demands.

The strike movement spreading every day has not only affected workers where the Türk Metal exist but also affected factories without any union. Workers in Er Metal that located in Bursa and where around 2000 workers are employed have halted production on the night of 28th May and accordingly have forced boss to accept their terms. 2 TL improvement has been realized on hourly wages. Thus, the first time in this metal workers’ movement, a factory without any union a struggle has existed.

er metaş


On the 1st June, workers in Delphi had also halted production. On social media, women workers of Delphi have shared “Darling take care of the children, I am in struggle”. In the evening the management have agreed that they will recognize representatives of workers and the room for the Türk Metal will be closed. The wage improvements will be discussed later on.

Resignments from the Türk Metal, stoppage of production as a warning continued during the week in various factories in many cities. The support and solidarity throughout the whole city never ends. And the struggle continues…

In factories where inner organization is week, workers who resigned from the Türk Metal had been fired by the management. In Rollmech that located in Bursa, although the boss promised not to, 30 workers who resigned from the union were fired.


The Fear Against Unity of Workers

Some of the workers in the movement have been called to Bursa Police Department Anti-Terror Branch Management for their testimonies. The questions posed (which are listed below) show the fear against workers’ unity:

  • Did you attend the protests? Did you get orders from anyone? Do you transfer information to anybody?
  • Has any lawyers come to the factories for the continuation of the protests? Did you helped any of them to enter inside the factory?
  • Have you carried out any research about the total number of workers in metal sector in our city with a purpose of establishing a new union? Has any lawyer informed you about this process through seminar? If so, who are these lawyers? And when, how this is held?
  • Did you carry out any work to recruit workers to the new union you will be establishing? Did you get any orders that you shall not carry out this process with imposition?
  • Did you gather information on the strikes continuing in your factories and transferred these information to any social media page? Are these information published in any of the facebook pages?
  • Did you get any orders that you shall not accept any wage improvements during negotiations?
  • Do you have any information on Council Between Factories established to direct the movement in accordance with the purpose and strategy of the TKİP (Communist Workers Party of Turkey) in all the factories that workers’ movement has spread? If you attended any of its meetings, what were subjects? And how are the decisions in this very council been spread to workers?

Bar Association in Bursa has made an allegation against this investigation saying this is against workers’ union rights and their right to collective protest.

metal direnişi

Some notes on the strike movement…

  • In Turkey, there are three different trade unions member of different confederations that are authorized for collective bargaining agreement in metal sector. However, the tendency in factories where workers have resigned from the Türk Metal is to create a new union and not to become a member of any of these unions which fail to lead their struggles so far. Metal Workers Unity (MİB) who seems to be the only initiative that determine a policy from the beginning of the strike movement in metal, have opened this discussion on creating a new union. Through social media many workers share they are positive with the idea of a new union and an action should be taken immediately. Besides, MİB warns workers on the fact that in some factories Çelik-İş (Trade Union in Steel, Iron, Metal and Auto Industry that is a member of The Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions – Hak İş – which acts like shadow of the government) has been brought to the agenda by bosses and that it is no different than the Türk Metal.
  • MİB has declared judiciary preparations will be started  to create a new union and that working groups within factories should be established. On the other hand, there are efforts on strengthening grassroots in factories and renewal of representatives by new elections.
  • A complaint by employers’ front has been done for the Facebook to close down MİB’s facebook page. The decision has been given by a court in Istanbul. Now an answer from Facebook’s competent body in USA is awaited.
  • Non official statistics say that more than 40 thousand workers have resigned from the Türk Metal in various factories. This number is growing day by day. Before resignments the Türk Metal had around 180 thousand workers.
  • According to laws that regulate the working of trade unions, trade unions which are not a member of any confederation (independent unions) should recruit 3% of the workers in sector to have a right from the ministry to collective bargaining (for the member unions this ratio is 1%). This means, for a new union to be established around 40 thousand workers shall be a member of the union.
  • Strikes in Turkey are often banned. Lately, the strike which the Birleşik Metal- İş (United Metal Workers’ Union) that is a member of the DİSK (The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey) was on with more than 10 thousand of its member was also banned by government . However, metal workers have broken the ban by their latest de facto strike.
  • On the 7th June, parliamentary elections will be realized. Thus, government that usually dances with capital owners and do whatever they want is acting cautiously in this very rise of metal workers. They avoid opposing workers. For now…

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