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Turkish, Global Unions Unite to Pressure Unilever Turkey on Trade Union Rights Violations at Contract Haulers

Posted to the IUF website 24-Oct-2008

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Turkish trade unions and global union federations ICEM, ITF and IUF joined together on October 20 in Istanbul in a strong show of support for the struggle for trade union rights at subcontracted transport companies providing services to Unilever Turkey.

Unilever's Turkish manufacturing facilities supply Turkey and the Middle East. Transport is subcontracted to two companies, Çipa and Simsek, which work exclusively for Unilever. When the ITF-affiliated transport union TÜMTIS began successfully recruiting warehouse workers at Çipa last year, the company's response was repression and victimization.

Since April 2008, 87 workers have been dismissed – all of them union members. The sacked workers (none of whom received redundancy pay) have held a daily picket now going into its fifth month.

Three Turkish unions - TÜMTIS, the chemical workers' union PETROL-IS (affiliated to ICEM) and the IUF-affiliated TEKGIDA-IS - joined by representatives of the three global union federations held a joint meeting on October 20. That meeting resulted in a strong commitment to step up pressure on Unilever to intervene with its subcontractors to reinstate the dismissed union members, recognize the union and enter into collective bargaining negotiations. Despite a local court decision which ordered the company to reinstate the first group of dismissed workers, the transport company refuses to recognize the union. Unilever Turkey management rejected a proposal to meet with a joint Turkish union delegation on October 20 to discuss the situation. Unilever corporate management has so far rejected any responsibility for gross breaches of union rights at its subcontractors.

Following the meeting representatives of the Turkish unions and the global union federations travelled to the Unilever warehouse 40 kilometers from Istanbul where they joined the picketing workers at the warehouse gates.

ICEM, ITF and IUF will be escalating pressure on Unilever to bring its subcontractors into compliance with international standards on trade union rights and recognition.