On the second day of UNISON’s local government conference, long-term friend of the union and trade union leader Mehmet Bozgeyik (pictured above, right) addressed delegates with a powerful speech.
Mr Bozgeyik is co-president of the confederation of public employees’ trade unions (KESK), Turkey.
Opening his speech, Mr Bozgeyik thanked UNISON members for their ongoing support for trade union members facing different forms of harassment in Turkey, which he described as an ‘autocratic’ country.
Mr Bozgeyik continued: “As you know, Turkey is not an isolated case in the world. There is a global trend of right wing populism all over the world.
“We just had general elections, which could have been an opportunity to change the ruling party. However, as international reports show, there was no equality in the competition in these elections.”
He said the elections were marked by polarisation and repressive policies, with the media playing a crucial role in spreading misinformation. He also described how, in the previous election in 2019, the government removed newly elected mayors and replaced them with state officers.
“We know that this appointment of trustees is a practice from the military regime, but it’s the first time under the civilian regime that the government has appointed trustees. When they began work, they adopted aggressive policies on trade union leaders, which resulted in dismissals of our members.”
However, Mr Bozgeyik remained defiant. “We strongly believe in the fact that we will win his struggle, together with other democratic forces which are making efforts to achieve peace, human rights and rule of law in this country. We will win for sure.
“We are struggling for our fundamental rights every day.”
Mr Bozgeyik said: “I would like to thank the UNISON family for showing solidarity with us and for our members from KESK who have been in prison for two years.”
UNISON has long supported the ongoing trials of union leaders Gonul Erden and Selma Atabey, who face charges of terrorism for their trade union activities.
“On 5 June last week, our leader Selma Atabey was released from prison. In March, Gonul Erdem was released from prison. They are under house arrest so cannot attend this conference, but would like to express their gratitude for your solidarity.”
Mr Bozgeyik continued to draw parallels between the battles that local government workers face across the world.
“There is a global economic crisis. I’m sure you are also facing the results of this crisis. We’re feeling the effects of this, and of capitalist policies which are not good for ecology, or citizens.
“We have been following UNISON’s actions and strikes against neoliberal policies and low wages. We extend our greetings to your struggle and congratulate you in this struggle against low wages.
“We are struggling to build a brighter future, and we are struggling together. Long live solidarity, long live UNISON, we will win together.”
The article A message of solidarity from trade unionists in Turkey first appeared on the UNISON National site.