Turkish unions warn of general strike over severance pay

The BWI-affiliated Turkish Union of Road, Construction and Building Workers (YOL-IS) warned of a general strike over the government’s move to transform the workers’ severance pay into a pension fund under the “complementary pension system” (TES). Under the new scheme, employers who may have refrained before from terminating employment agreements to avoid the financial burden of making lump-sum severance payments, would be free from such an arrangement, leading to a possible rise in termination rates. 

YOL-IS’s warning of a general strike was echoed by YOL-IS’s sister unions in the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TURK-IS).

“Hands off our severance pay. This is beyond question. Those who want to interfere with our severance pay will answer to millions of Turkish workers. Policymakers should stop tinkering with our severance pay which will only lead to the disruption of peace at work. They should stop trying our patience,” President Ramazan Agar said. 

“As we have always expressed, severance pay is one of the most important rights of Turkish workers. It is one the main pillars of the Turkish labor law. If the severance pay policy is amended, it could threaten the concept and functions of a number of important articles in the labor law,” Agar added. 

The severance pay in Turkey is not only a tool to compensate loss of income due to dismissal of a worker, but a legal shield, which has preventive and protective quality against employers' arbitrary dismissals. Pursuant to the law, workers who are entitled to receive severance pay should be paid a gross wage of 30 days for each full year of their employment. As severance pay plays a role in guaranteeing the future of workers and their job security, this amount constitutes a deterrent to layoffs. The workers’ severance pay, which is seen as an added by employers and a new financial resource by the government, is always under attack. 

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson expressed full support to the Turkish unions. “The Turkish government should stop using the global health crisis as a convenient excuase to infringe on the rights of workers.  Instead, it should see this period as an opportune time to expand workers’ rights and secure workers income,” Yuson said.