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Choose the union or your job, dockers told

news 03 Jun 2024

Dockers in Turkey are facing an increased attack on their right to join the union of their choice by a hostile employer.  

Dockers at Borusan Port started to unionise in March by joining the dockers’ union Liman-İş. Their employer – Borusan Lojistik AS – responded by sacking six workers, who were later reinstated after the intervention of local politicians.  

On 21 May the company reneged on its promise to respect their workers’ right to join the union of their choice and sacked 37 dockers. Some were even sacked by WhatsApp message.

WhatsApp message sacking a docker

The union has taken the employer – which reported a turnover of US$684 million in 2023 - to court for breaching both the Turkish constitution and the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise. 

The strike has attracted wide political support and had been discussed in the Turkish parliament. 

Fatih Özpinar, General Secretary of Liman-İş said: “These dockers work like slaves for Borusan. Now they have unionised to make their working conditions better and safer, and have been told, ‘Choose the union or your job’.  

“Those 37 dockers who were sacked for choosing their union now need support from the global trade union movement.” 

ITF President and Chair of the ITF’s Dockers’ Section, Paddy Crumlin, said: “Borusan Lojistik is acting purely out of spite towards its workers because these dockers have invoked their right to unionise. Instead of Borusan presenting to the world their pretence of culture and progression, they need to step back and think how this vicious behaviour looks. 

“When unions say ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ it isn’t empty rhetoric. Each and every one of us feels the pain of those 37 dockers – unfairly sacked for choosing to join a union. Trade unionists from across the globe stand together in solidarity and to say, ‘your struggle is our struggle’”. 

Please show solidarity to the union by signing our  petition to Erkan Kafadar, CEO of Borusan Group . 

Messages of support and solidarity can be sent to:

Press contacts: 
Sian Manaz (ITF Communications) 
Fatih Özpınar (Liman-İş General Secretary) 

Notes for editors: This behaviour is in sharp contrast to Mersin International Port (MIP) - Türkiye’s largest container port in southern Türkiye - where the employer has a good working relationship with the union, resulting in an excellent safety record and decent pay rises for the dockers.