TEHRAN, YJC. -- The strike carries major importance for Turkey's state-owned tea producer as it comes right ahead of the time when Çaykur begins purchasing tea from farmers during the harvest
Some 10,000 members of the Union of Tobacco, Alcoholic Beverage, Food and Related Industry Workers (TekGıda-İş) went on a strike on Monday against tea producer Çaykur in what is the first strike in the company's history and the largest public sector strike the country has seen for the last 20 years.
The strike carries major importance for Turkey's state-owned tea producer as it comes right ahead of the time when Çaykur begins purchasing tea from farmers during the harvest. Workers at 58 businesses that operate under Çaykur are taking part in the strike, for which there is as yet no end date. TekGıda-İş has been the union of Çaykur workers for 60 years and has no strikes in its history.
With the strike, the workers are hoping to gain pay raises and bonuses applied retroactively for the past five years. Stating that the negotiations with the employer resulted in deadlock due to Çaykur's unwillingness to compromise, union President Mustafa Türkel said they decided to go on strike following union procedures. He said the union has remained at the negotiating table with the hope of coming to an agreement and avoiding chaos; however, the union has received no response from the management. "If the strike continues for about 10 days, Çaykur factories won't be able to make their raw tea production time as tea producers also will not be able to pick tea from the fields, which will have consequences for the consumers and tea farmers,” he added.
The Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Türk-İş) also announced on Monday that, with its 34 unions, they will be supporting the TekGıda-İş strike.
Meanwhile, Çaykur General Manager İmdat Sütlüoğlu defended the company, saying the government had issued pay raises in the past at rates higher than inflation and the reason why workers are not receiving other workers' rights is because they are refusing to sign a collective agreement. "TekGıda-İş has been coming to us with high demands, such as premiums and pay as recompense for their working conditions. Estimating the total of these costs for the past five years, the total amount comes out to TL 137 million. Such an amount does not exist within company accounts. Due to its social duty, Çaykur is already a company that does not make a profit. The aim of the union is not to protect workers' rights but beat the watchman [Çaykur],” he stated.
Sütlüoğlu underlined that the workers involved in the strike will not be getting their salaries, while those who continue to work will be paid. Stressing that the strike will have a serious impact on 1 million farmers producing tea, he asked the union who was going to pay for the misery of these farmers. "Those who harm Çaykur harm the people of the Black Sea region, where tea is produced. Our policies focus on the protection of tea producers. If we were to accept the conditions of the union, we would have to close down the factories due to financial losses. This would cause an earthquake -- economically -- leaving everyone involved under the rubble.”