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Olive factory workers in Turkey strike for 13th day after bosses sack trade unionists

WORKERS at an olive and olive oil factory in the Turkish city of Izmir continued to stand their ground today after seven of their colleagues were sacked for joining a trade union.

Members of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (Disk) labour federation-affiliated food workers’ union formed a picket line at the gates of the Taris factory for the 13th day in a row and said they would fight to return to work as trade union members.

The workers first came under pressure from factory bosses five months ago after they joined the Gida Is union. 

Bosses responded by demanding that they join a pro-management union and called in the police. 

On November 6, seven workers were sacked and 64 people were taken into custody, including leaders of the union who went to the factory in solidarity.

Disk general secretary Arzu Cerkezoglu said the events at the Izmir plant show that bosses intend to make workers pay for Turkey’s deepening economic crisis.

“We are determined to grow the unity, solidarity and struggle of the workers against these unjust, unlawful, unfair practices,” she said.

Ms Cerkezoglu said the union would stand shoulder to shoulder with those standing for democracy and justice.

Attacks on Turkish trade unionists have escalated in recent months as  the country’s poor economic situation fuels growing unrest and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responds by seeking to crush dissent.

Last week, Abdullah Karacan, president of the Disk/Lastik-Is rubber and chemical union, was shot dead during a visit to workers at the Goodyear factory in Adapazari.

The union, which has won significant victories against the use of precarious work and outsourcing at the tyre transnational’s operations in Turkey, vowed to “raise the flag higher” in his memory.

In September, striking workers on the construction site for Istanbul’s third airport were tear-gassed and 500 were detained on terrorism charges in night-time raids by Turkey’s notorious gendarmes.

The union has called for solidarity as 31 of those arrested face trial on December 5.

Turkey has been accused of criminalising trade union activity after 26 Renault workers were sentenced last week to five months in prison for “disobeying the law on meetings and demonstrations” following a protest in 2016.

That demonstration was provoked by  the car giant’s refusal to allow union elections at its plant in Bursa.

People’s Republican Party MP Kani Beko said his request for a meeting with Taris managers to try to resolve the dispute had been rebuffed.

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