A group of metal workers who were fired without severance pay for being members of United Metal Workers' Union (“Birleşik Metal-İş”), on Nov. 24 attempted a march from the northwestern province of Kocaeli to the capital Ankara, but only to be blocked and attacked by police.
The United Metal Workers' Union -- a member of Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK) -- said that 109 workers were detained for their attempt, but were later released after giving their testimonies.
The workers announced that they will once again gather in front of the union's Gebze branch on Nov. 25 at 10 a.m. and expressed their determination to march to Ankara.
The protesting workers were either put on unpaid leave or fired from their jobs for being members of the union. The workers, who were employed at Systemair HSK, Özer Elekrik and Baldur factories, have been since trying to get their severance pay.
The workers gathered on Nov. 24 in front of the union's Gebze branch, unfurling banners of “We want the right to be unionized.” Shortly afterwards, the police appeared at the scene, saying the march was banned upon the orders of the Kocaeli Governor's Office due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the intervention, police officers were seen using their riot shields and batons to land blows on the workers.
Ankara’ya yürümek isteyen metal işçileri, genel merkez, şube yöneticilerimiz ve dayanışma için yanımızda olan emek dostları gözaltında. pic.twitter.com/5YvpSFJmw5— BİRLESİK METAL-İŞ (@BirlesikMetal) November 24, 2020
Following the harsh police attack, union president Adnan Serdaroğlu made a speech saying that officials had been turning a blind eye to the workers' problems and rights violations they are facing.
“Workers are going through every kind of oppression for just being members of a union. How do you call this justice, democracy, human rights, freedom!” Serdaroğlu was quoted as a saying by daily Evrensel.
Labor Party chair Ercüment Akdeniz also released a statement with regards to the detention of the workers saying that the Kocaeli Governor's Office had decided to ban demonstrations shortly after the announcement of the metal workers' planned march.
“The state is turning a blind eye to the dismissal of workers, who are using their constitutional rights...Official authorities, especially the governor's office and police forces, should not be a part of this crime. We condemn the attack against metal workers, union executives and their supporters,” he was quoted as saying by Evrensel.
Meanwhile, union member workers throughout Turkey protested the detention of their colleagues and the authorities' ban on the march.