Employees of Turkish grocery chain detained for protesting layoffs

A group of former employees of Turkish grocery store chain Migros were detained on April 5 for protesting their unjust layoff during the pandemic. The workers were laid off on grounds of "violating ethical values" shortly after joining a labor union.

A group of former Migros employees hold banners that read "Long live our Migros resistance!" and "No peace for Tuncay Özilhan while workers are hungry!"

Duvar English

A group of former employees from massive Turkish grocery chain Migros were detained in front of holding owner Tuncay Özilhan's house for protesting their unjust layoffs during the pandemic on April 5. 

"Are you going to kill us? Just because we wanted to make a statement in front of boss Tuncay Özilhan, we have been detained in this way by the police, who tortured us, tried to have us breathless and crush us," DGD-SEN wrote in a tweet and shared the video footage of the detention. 

The workers were laid off on the grounds of "violating ethical values," but they have pointed out that the real reason behind the termination of their contracts is that they are members of DGD-SEN, the Union of Storehouse, Entrepot, Ship Construction and Ship Transportation Workers. 

It is currently illegal for employers to fire workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the only exception to this ban is the Social Security Institution's (SGK) code 29, which says the employment contract can be terminated on the grounds that the employee exhibited “behaviors which do not comply with the rules of morality and goodwill.”

The former employees had joined the union in protest of the lack of pandemic precautions and extended hours at a Kocaeli warehouse of the grocery chain. 

They were placed on unpaid leave shortly after they joined the union, and were laid off on the 52nd day of their peaceful protest in front of the warehouse they used to work at. 

The employees were detained on the 91st day of their protest on April 5. Union secretary Neslihan Acar lost consciousness during her detention in front of Özilhan’s residence.