Earlier this year, as the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread westwards to Turkey, around 2,500 Turkish Airlines workers volunteered for unpaid leave to help the company maintain financial stability. Workers agreed to these exceptional arrangements as aircraft were being grounded worldwide in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.
On 1 April, the Turkish government launched a welcome income support scheme to keep workers employed across the economy. Turkish Airlines has taken advantage of this scheme to subsidise labour costs for a large section of its workforce. However, workers who had earlier volunteered for unpaid leave are not receiving this support.
The situation is especially acute for workers over the age of 60. The government has imposed a partial curfew on people in this age bracket due to the heightened health risk from coronavirus, but Turkish Airlines is now pressuring this section of the workforce to take unpaid leave. This is a clear violation of International Labour Organisation treaties that Turkey has ratified, and which outlaw discrimination on the basis of age.
On 22 April the ITF civil aviation secretary, Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez, wrote to the chief executive of Turkish Airlines in support of Hava-Is’ demands for equal treatment. He reminded Turkish Airlines of the country’s commitments under international law, and reiterated the willingness of ITF and its affiliates to cooperate with airlines in finding a sustainable solution to the current crisis.