Turkish workers protest sack law, scuffle with police

Thousands of demonstrators protesting a draft bill which, according to unions, will limit the rights of workers, clashed with police in Ankara on Thursday after they were prevented from reaching the Parliament building.

The Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) and the Turkish Doctors Union (TTB) had earlier announced that they would gather in front of Parliament today in a bid to protest the sack law, which they say is aimed at enslaving workers.

“Sack law” is a term commonly used in the Turkish Parliament to describe a package of unrelated revisions to laws that are lumped together for the purpose of fast-tracking legislative changes. Initially the opposition had declared that it was ready to support the sack law currently under discussion in Parliament, but later withdrew its support.

The Ankara Governor’s Office on Tuesday opposed the protest saying all forms of protest near the Parliament building are prohibited by law, underscoring that any such protest would be illegal. Representatives from the unions, on the other hand, expressed their determination to stage the protest despite the warning from the governor’s office.

The representatives from the unions, who came to Ankara from 80 provinces throughout Turkey, were joined by some deputies from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) at Ankara’s Kurtuluş Park in the morning before marching towards Parliament. They had intended to form a “chain of people” in front of the building to protest the law but were stopped by security forces.

There were skirmishes between the protestors and security forces in which several dozen people were injured. Security forces intervened with tear gas and protestors threw stones. Thousands of protestors attacked police in the city center in the vicinity of Ziya Gökalp Street.

“CHP MPs in protest”

Some deputies, including CHP deputy chairmen Umut Oran and İzzet Çetin, CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Muharrem İnce and CHP deputies Mehmet Sevingen, Çetin Soysal, İsa Gök, Oğuz Oyan, as well as Voice of the People Party (HAS) Deputy Chairman Mehmet Bekaroğlu also expressed their support for the protest.

The protestors carried banners stating, “We are walking towards Parliament against the exploitation of children and women in the workplace, against working without security and against the looting of the unemployment fund.”

Workers are claiming that if the draft sack bill is approved by Parliament many rights of workers will be curtailed.

However, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security released a statement claiming that the public had been misled about the draft bill and that it would actually bring more rights for workers and new ways to fight unemployment.

The statement added that contrary to claims by protestors, the unemployment fund will not be used for purposes other than which it was established for.

“The draft bill will ease conditions for access to the unemployment fund, even for part-time workers. The fund is intended to improve the quality of the workforce and the planning of it,” the statement said.

Protestors also said the draft bill will increase the outsourcing of workers, but the ministry also dismissed this as false.

“As everywhere else in the world, technological improvements have enabled new flexible working options such as working from home and distance working, which are already being implemented in our country. However, as there are no regulations on these alternatives, those currently working under these practices are doing so informally, without having the protection of social security,” the statement claimed.

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