CHP holds ‘Labor Rally’ for higher wages, pensions

Workers and pensioners fed up with Turkey’s cost of living crisis have gathered at the rally held by the main opposition CHP in the Gebze district, an industrial hub. Party chair Özgür Özel stated that an early election was inevitable without improvements in minimum wages and pensions.

Osman Çaklı / Gazete Duvar

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on June 30 held the “Labor Rally” in Gebze, an industrial hub in Turkey’s İzmit province. 

Thousands from various political backgrounds attended the rally, whose common grievance was the cost of living crisis and the insufficient minimum wages. 

The common sentiment was "We can't make ends meet," and the common demand of the rally was the expectation of a mid-year salary adjustment in July. 

Retirees spoke about the "impossibility" of living on a pension in today's Turkey, citing the economy as the primary reason for changes in their voting preferences.

The pensioner representatives' banner reads, "Pension is the government's disgrace"

The rally attracted people of all ages, but young people showed the least interest. The largest turnout came from retirees, with worker unions, early retirement victims (EYT), and apprenticeship victims also voicing their concerns. 

Despite the hot weather, there were people outside the rally area following the speeches. The excitement increased when CHP Chair Özgür Özel took the stage after thousands had already filled the area before the rally began.

Recent high school graduate Yusuf Avşar was one of the first speakers. He voiced how young people could not participate in social activities and had to work. Following him, a female factory worker discussed the dual burden of working both at her job and at home.

Thousands attend the rally held at Turkey's industrial hub Gebze.

Özel drew attention to the inadequacy of pensions in today's Turkey and declared, "We will take our rights by force." Calls for a mid-year salary adjustment echoed from Gebze, with speeches often interrupted by slogans. One of the most striking slogans was, "We don't want to retire for free."

Özel pledged to continue fighting until CHP came to power and promised that once they did, the lowest pension would be set at one and a half times the minimum wage.

The rally highlighted the unity of different segments of society. Workers, farmers, students, and especially retirees, criticized the government for not fulfilling its promises. 

The workers who spoke to Gazete Duvar were particularly resentful of the "austerity" policies. They said, "We've seen it all. Although we used to vote for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), it's impossible to make ends meet now. Debt has overwhelmed us."

In his speech, Özel drew attention to the constant price increases in energy resources, “Tomorrow is July 1, there's no raise for you, but there will be a rise in electricity prices."

Özel also pointed to the possibility of calling for early elections if the citizens’ economic state did not improve. He said, "If people cannot make a living, there will be early elections." His call for early elections resonated with the crowd, who chanted, "Early elections!"

A CHP representative met with Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek to communicate demands to adjust minimum wages, improve pensions, and amend the tax policy. 

The meeting was not fruitful, according to the CHP, as Şimşek did not display any "will" to improve the conditions for citizens burdened with soaring inflation. 

As of May, Turkey's hunger threshold increased to 19,926 Turkish liras ($609) and exceeded the minimum wage by 2,924 liras ($90). Meanwhile, the January bump to the minimum wages eroded by at least 62 dollars in six months.

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)