T2-15: The state and industrial relations (1)

5 September 2019, 14:00–15:30

Chair: Richard Hyman


Trade unions and deunionisation in Turkey

Banu Uckhan Hekimler, Anadolu University

According to the ITUC (International Trade Unions Confederation) Global Rights Index published in 2018, 65% of countries exclude workers from to establish or join a trade union, 81% of countries have violated the right to collective bargaining and 87% of countries have violated the right to strike. The report announced ten worst countries for working people as follows: Algeria, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Among these countries, only Turkey is from Europe. Therefore it is worth to find the answers for these questions: “How is the industrial relations system in Turkey?” and “How the union rights are violated by the government and the employers in Turkey?”

Turkey, as a candidate country in the EU integration process since the 1960s, is generally characterized by low union density, decentralized collective bargaining, and authoritarian state figure as well as hostile labour-employer and labour-state relations. The main actor in Turkish industrial relations system is the state. There was neither a bourgeoisie nor a working class in the European sense in the Turkish pre-Republican period. Therefore, all labour rights, gained in Europe through intense class struggle, were always given in Turkey by the state. The workers and employers, two important actors in the industrial relations system, were left behind and the state regulated labour relations unilaterally. This, though, led to detailed legislation non-existent in the European countries.

There are more than 100 trade unions, most of which are affiliated to five divergent and rival labour confederations (Türk-İş, DİSK, Hak-İş, Tüm-İş and Birlik-İş). Only 1.714.397 workers are unionised and the union density rate, which was 11,96 %, 12,18 %, 12,38 in 2016, 2017 and January 2018, respectively. However the collective agreements do not cover all the unionised workers, only 1 million workers are covered by collective agreements. In other words, the level of collective bargaining coverage is well below the level of union density in contrary to most of the EU countries. There are two major and controversial stipulations concerning authorisation: representation of at least 1% of the total number of employees in the industry concerned and representation of more than half of the total number of employees in the workplace concerned. These requirements were probably the most provocative challenges in Turkey to collective bargaining rights and to ILO Convention No. 98.

In Turkey, workers have right to strike only in the event of a labour dispute arising during negotiations for the conclusion of a collective agreement. Other types of strikes and industrial actions, such as political, general, solidarity and wild-cat strikes slow- down, work to rule, have been implicitly prohibited. The postponement of legal strikes, an accepted legal practice borrowed from the US Taft-Hartley Act, has also been a telling feature of Turkish industrial relations, particularly between 2014-2018 under the AKP government. The President may postpone the strike or lock-out for 60 days. Upon the expiration of the 60 day postponement period, the dispute should be settled by the Supreme Arbitration Board. Therefore strike or lock-out postponement is meant prohibition of strike or lock-out in Turkey. 9 extensive strikes has been postponed between 2014 and 2018. So it is possible to say that the state is busting the unions implicitly by strike postponements. Besides the state, the employers has some union avoidance policies. Dismissals, exploiting inter-union rivalry and abuse of strike ballots are among the most common union busting strategies.

In this paper, first the general framework of industrial relations in Turkey will be drawn, afterwards union avoidance polices of state and employers will be discussed by some recent cases.


Quo vadis Poland?

Populist social promises and their impact on the labour market

Anna Piszczek, University of Lodz and Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland

Social intervention processes should focus on actions designed to further social activity and, consequently, active employment of persons who are at the risk of exclusion, yet have the potential to take up employment. For it is work that should be the source of welfare of individuals and families, and employment should substantially minimise the risk of poverty and exclusion. The contemporary paradigm of social policy should depart from the concept of welfare state (guaranteed employment, high benefits) and instead embrace the idea of full-employment state (furthering activity in the labour market, flexible employment, lower labour costs).

Gender equality, work-life balance, minimum income, old age income and pensions – these are four out of 20 key principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The purpose of the European Pillar of Social Rights initiative is to deepen the social dimension of the Union and improve positive social convergence between the Member States. With regard to gender equality it stipulates that, e.g. equality of treatment and opportunities between women and men must be ensured and fostered in all areas, including regarding participation in the labour market, terms and conditions of employment and career progression. In respect of work-life balance the Pillar indicates that parents and people with caring responsibilities have the right to access to care services. With reference to minimum income it lays down that for those who can work, minimum income benefits should be combined with incentives to (re)integrate into the labour market. The European Pillar of Social Rights specifies that women and men shall have equal opportunities to acquire pension rights.

The shared responsibility for the implementation of the principles and rights laid down in the European Pillar of Social Rights rests with the EU institutions, Member States, social partners and other parties concerned. Therefore, it is expedient to look at the social policy administered in Poland in recent months in the light of the purposes of the European Pillar. Do the social policy tools help the excluded, or rather make them dependent on the sources of aid and discourage them from active employment? Do they pursue gender equality and high participation of women in the labour market?

In Poland, the main area of the state’s social activity in the last three years has been profamily policy dominated by financial activities subordinated to political purposes, i.e. the need to seize and keep power. The incumbent government has simply loosened the purse strings, which is easy to prepare and implement. The adopted solutions serve to preserve the traditional family model of working man and housewife, which is facilitated with generous maternity entitlements or benefits that compensate the possible abandonment of career in favour of the role of full-time mother/carer. By contrast, a fine-tuned policy of a real welfare state should combine direct benefits with infrastructural capital expenditures, first and foremost for care and education facilities that would provide quality social services: public nurseries, kindergartens, after-school activities, well-functioning after-school clubs, as well as care homes for senior citizens. Hence, the Polish government’s policy is a far cry from the European Pillar of Social Rights initiative which underpins equality of men and women.

Moreover, the social policy administered by the new government appears to be inconsiderate of the labour market. While only a labour market that is capable of providing well-paid and secure jobs can create the basis for common welfare of society. In Poland, low employment rate is still an issue. However, the government has not implemented any specific measures that would be conducive to its upturn, while such solutions as the "500+ Scheme" (approx. €120 per month for the second and subsequent child in family) or lowering of the retirement age make up a blueprint for an opposite effect. In the first place, they cause women in the economically productive age bracket to leave the labour market. Additionally, there is no reflection on the long-term effects of the running social schemes. The government is inconsiderate of what will happen to the families whose children have come off age and their income from the "500+ Scheme" starts falling to eventually reach zero. Nor do they see the issue of the return to the labour market after a break caused by withdrawal from active employment for the duration of raising children. Sadly, a part of the long-term unemployed will remain dependent on the social aid system. The second problem of the Polish labour market are low wages. The average pay is still around one-third of the average pay in West European countries, but the majority of workers do not earn even that. From the point of view of the interests of the young generation, more important than direct social transfers would be capital expenditures for education in poor areas, financial aid for gaining qualifications, support for entrepreneurs who create better paid jobs in impoverished areas, capital expenditures for public transport that would ensure fast and cheap commuting to places where jobs are available.

Notably, Poland is in the run-up not only to the European Parliament elections (May 2019), but to the national parliamentary elections (October/November 2019) and the prospective presidential elections (2020) as well. The outcome of the latest local elections in 2018 is indicative of the likely profound changes on Poland’s political scene. High turnout and landslide victory of the opposition coalition in large cities demonstrate that the ruling party’s primacy, notwithstanding the current support polls, is not a foregone conclusion. In the months to come we are likely to hear a plethora of social promises, the exact content of which is impossible to predict today. Suffice it to say, however, that of late the media have been reporting that the "500+ Scheme" is to be replaced with a "1000+ Scheme". It cannot be excluded that such promises will also be made by the opposition parties and we will witness a peculiar auction of populist promises.

The state and industrial relations

From supportive to intrusive? Niklas Bruun, University of Helsinki

Roberto Pedersini, University of Milan

The paper presents an analytical framework based on the different roles and measures that states use to shape the scope and content of industrial relations and collective bargaining based on Bordogna and Cella (1999). After elaborating a typology of styles of state intervention, it applies it to the experience of a number of European Union countries since 2010 in order to investigate whether we are witnessing any relevant change. The analysis points to some evidence about a more interventionist stance and less autonomy of industrial relations, with a mixed outcome in term of the effectiveness of the new measures.

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