Photo: Louise Regan
Solidarity with workers in Turkey
Last night I spoke at a hastily-convened but well-attended meeting at the NUT in solidarity with public sector workers, teachers and journalists currently suffering a state purge in Turkey. The meeting was organised by Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT), and other speakers – from the NUT itself, PCS and RMT – demonstrated that this is an issue that unites trade unionists in the UK, whether public or private sector. This is an edited version of what I said.
British unions are working closely with trade unions in Turkey, helping them to spread the message about what’s been going on, and their resistance, such as the big march before Christmas, and working with the Global Union Federations that represent Turkish unions, and can bring trade unions in Turkey together with trade unions in Britain and around the world, and with the people of Turkey and especially the Kurdish community.
It’s particularly important, in building that solidarity, for trade unionists to be in touch with Turkish trade unionists doing similar work – teachers to teachers, journalists to journalists, factory workers to factory workers.
The ruling AKP party have used the failed coup attempt last July to sweep trade unionists, Kurds, and left-wingers out of the public sector, especially education and the media. In some ways this latest wave of attacks is a testament to the rise of those calling for a new Turkey. Unable to tackle the rise of political opposition parties such as the HDP, Erdogan and his corrupt, dictatorial regime have resorted to delegitimising all opposition – political and industrial – as terrorism.
We are working with colleagues concerned about human rights such as Amnesty International, but in particular with international colleagues such as the European Trade Union Confederation and International Trade Union Confederation, stressing labour rights abuses in particular, but also the attacks on democracy, freedom of speech, national self-determination. We need to use institutions like the ILO, the UN Human Rights Council, weak as they are, to press for an end to these vicious attacks.
We need to press the British Government over the Theresa May’s partnership with President Erdogan in Turkey, work with MPs who share our concerns, for example over the arms sales and keep up the pressure on the Turkish Embassy so that they know we are watching what is going on.
But the main thing we need to do is make sure that Turkish trade unionists and public service workers know we are on their side.
We must always remember why we’re doing this. Partly out of simple solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are in desperate straits. But also because their struggle is increasingly part of a global struggle against anti-democratic forces, attempting to split working class communities and divide their opponents, spreading fear among those who might oppose them, and allowing exploitation free rein. Let’s not forget the links between the Erdogan regime and the Trump regime in the US. Remember who waved Theresa May off on her way to Turkey.
There, and here, we must unite against oppression. Turkey’s struggle is our struggle.
You can see a video of the speech here.