Turkey’s three biggest labor confederations jointly call gov’t to raise minimum wage

In a joint press release, Turkey's largest labor confederations, TÜRK-İŞ, DİSK, and HAK-İŞ, demanded the government raise the minimum wage, stating the "current one does not allow workers to make a living for one week."

Duvar English

In a joint press statement on July 9, the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TÜRK-İŞ), the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK), and The Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions (HAK-İŞ) called the government to urgently increase the minimum wage and equalize lowest pension with the minimum wage level.

As of January 2024, TÜRK-İŞ represents about 54% (1.35M members) of unionized workers, HAK-İŞ with 34% (846,000) and DİSK with 10% (246,000). Together, the three confederations account for nearly 98% of all unionized workers.

The three confederations first held a joint meeting on the deteriorating living conditions of workers. Afterward, Türk-İş chair Ergün Atalay took the first floor at the press conference and emphasized that it is almost impossible to live even for a week with the current minimum wage of 17,002 liras ($517).

"We find the figures released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) unrealistic and not aligned with market conditions. While 20 percent of the population lives in prosperity, the remaining 80 percent bears the cost. As we wait for inflation to be brought under control, layoffs of unionized workers in municipalities and the private sector, along with work accidents, continue," he said.

Hak-İş chair Mahmut Arslan then took the floor, stating, "We often compete, but we must come together on fundamental issues. Looking at macroeconomic indicators, there is a positive trend. The production wheels are still turning. Many companies in the private sector are working in three shifts. Unemployment is decreasing. But what is the state of the labor? Despite growth, the share of national income that workers receive is decreasing. Turkey does not deserve this trend."

In much of his speech, Arslan criticized the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democratic (DEM) Party municipalities, saying, "Unfortunately, the easiest action is layoffs. We ask opposition party municipalities to stop layoffs. The first step towards achieving fair distribution of prosperity is to remove barriers to union organization."

DİSK chair Arzu Çerkezoğlu in her speech said that the current situation is the result of the political and class preferences of the ruling political power.

"The value created by all of us is enough for 85 million people in this country to live comfortably. The resources just need to be distributed fairly, and income and tax distribution must be just. Where there is no democracy, labor rights do not exist. We can solve this problem in a country where all social segments, especially the working class, have a say in every aspect of life, not just during elections,” she underscored.

Çerkezoğlu then read out the 10 demands that the three confederations agreed upon.

The main demands were listed under the following headings: tax justice, public sector wage inequality, removal of barriers to union organization, rights of subcontracted workers, erosion of workers' rights under the pretext of austerity measures, workplace accidents and occupational diseases, and discrimination in the workplace.

The confederations also jointly called for an urgent increase in the minimum wage, stating, "Nearly half of the workers earn wages at the minimum wage level. The cause of high inflation in the country is the insatiable profit greed of capital, not low-income workers. Workers cannot be expected to make sacrifices to reduce inflation. Workers are not the cause of inflation but its victims. The minimum wage, which remains below the hunger threshold, must be increased effective from July."

The government has repeatedly stated that they would not increase the minimum wage mid-year and they believed that it has been increasing in real value. 

In Turkey, the hunger threshold surpassed the minimum wage by nearly 2,000 liras in June, reaching 18,980 liras ($580), while the poverty threshold rose to 61,820 liras ($1,890).

When the minimum wage was first announced on Dec. 27, 2023, it was $578. As of July 9, it eroded to $517 in just six months. 

“The approach that sees wages as the main cause of inflation should be abandoned, and price increases should be prevented by fighting inflation in the light of science,” the confederations stated.

They added that the lowest pension should be at the minimum wage level.