ILO Governing Body: “Closure of Trade Unions and Dismissal of Workers Violate ILO Conventions”

Having adopted the reports of the committees that reviewed the representation of Aksiyon-Is, ILO Governing Body requested that “a full, independent and impartial review be made with regard to all those workers who suffered from reprisals and retaliatory acts for their membership in the dissolved unions”

News | 27 April 2021
ANKARA – The International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Body adopted the report of the Committees that reviewed the representation submitted by the Action Workers' Union Confederation (Aksiyon-Is) pursuant to Article 24 of the ILO Constitution, alleging non-observance by the Government of Turkey of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Termination of Employment Convention, 1982 (No. 158).

In that context, the ILO Governing Body decided that the closure of trade unions and dismissal of workers violated ILO Conventions, and accordingly requested the Government to undertake a full, independent and impartial review with regard to all those workers who were imposed sanctions for their membership in the dissolved unions.

What is the case?

Aksiyon-Is Confederation, which was closed following the coup attempt in 2016, submitted a representation on 27 November 2017 to ILO pursuant to Article 24 of the ILO Constitution, alleging that Turkey violated the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Termination of Employment Convention, 1982 (No. 158).

Having reviewed the representation, the ILO Governing Body decided in its meeting in March 2019 to refer the said representation concerning Convention No. 87 to the Committee on Freedom of Association, and to establish an ad hoc committee concerning Convention No. 158, and identify one member for each committee from each of the government, worker and employer constituents in line with ILO’s tripartite composition.

What is in the Committees’ Reports?

According to the report, the closure of a trade union by an executive authority pursuant to a decree conferring to it full powers violates Article 4 of ILO’s Convention No. 87, a fundamental convention. The Committee held that as Article 4 provides that any dissolution of workers' or employers' organizations could only be carried out by the judicial authorities, which alone can guarantee the rights of defence; such principle must apply to cases of closure even during the state of emergency. It further underlined that the dissolution of trade union organizations constituted extreme forms of interference by the administrative authorities in the activities of organizations and should therefore be accompanied by all the necessary guarantees, which could only be ensured through a normal judicial procedure, which should also have the effect of a stay of execution.

The Committee noted that simply being a member of a trade union closed in this manner was considered as evidence of links of the individual with the FETO/PDY as supporting the coup attempt and thus justifying their dismissal, and recalled that these trade unions had been constituted and were operating lawfully until the state of emergency.

“While the Committee noted the gravity of the situation in Turkey following the attempted coup, it nevertheless noted that the dismissal of the individual workers affiliated to Aksiyon-Is was due to their affiliation with the trade union confederation.”

The report stated that “the Committee concluded that these workers were punished for their membership in a trade union, without any need for proof of specific action or involvement or even knowledge that they may have had about a possible affiliation with a terrorist organization. In other words, these workers were punished for having exercised their right to join organizations of their own choosing guaranteed by Article 2 of Convention No. 87 without any possibility of review of their individual situation”, and added that “while the Committee noted the gravity of the situation in Turkey following the attempted coup, it nevertheless noted that the dismissal of the individual workers affiliated to Aksiyon-Is was due to their affiliation with the trade union confederation.”

Committee’s call to the Government

The Committee urged the Government to take the necessary measures to ensure that the dissolution of trade unions pursuant to Decree-Law No. 667 be reviewed through the normal judicial procedures, which should also enable those unions to be able to be fully represented to defend their case, and further that a full, independent and impartial review be made with regard to all those workers who were imposed sanctions for their membership in the dissolved unions in order to determine whether, independently of their membership in such unions, they had carried out any unlawful activity that would justify their dismissal.

The Committee also urged the Government to ensure full reconsideration on the merits of those cases in which the applications were rejected, and to ensure this right of defence for those dismissed workers whose applications had not yet been examined; and expected that the imprisoned trade unionists receive a swift and impartial trial and requested the Government to submit copies of the relevant judgments to the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR).

For the reports: Click here
For Turkish translations of the reports: Click here