The strike by Bel workers in Turkey for the right to collective bargaining enters its sixth month as international solidarity grows. Though Groupe Bel claims to uphold human rights in its corporate policies, in practice the French TNC is union busting and maximizing profits at the expense of local communities in Turkey.
When the majority of workers at Bel Karper in Corlu joined the IUF affiliate Tekgıda-İş in April 2015, instead of recognizing the workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain, the company went on an almost six year legal battle to deny workers their rights. On November 26, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in the union’s favour and approved the union’s bargaining status. Despite the Labour Ministry’s issuance of a certificate of bargaining union status on January 5, 2021, Groupe Bel refused to enter into negotiations and so the workers had no option but to exercise their legal right to strike on May 17, 2021.
The IUF has repeatedly called on Groupe Bel to enter into negotiations with Tekgıda-İş and is actively campaigning to push Groupe Bel to the negotiating table:
- IUF French affiliates FGA-CFDT and FGTA-FO have expressed solidarity with the striking workers
- Members of IUF North American affiliate IBT at Little Chute, Wisconsin, USA expressed solidarity after being informed of the Turkish struggle by their union
- Members of UFCW Local 1473 issued handbills explaining the dispute to workers employed by La Grander’s Hillside Dairy, a Wisconsin-based supplier of cheddar to Bel Turkey
- The union is compiling evidence of illegal action by the company and placing the evidence before the Turkish authorities
- The French consulate in Istanbul has been requested to use its influence to persuade the company to uphold the rights of its employees throughout its Turkish operations
In explaining the solidarity action UFCW Local 1473 President Jake Bailey said, “We didn’t have to find time to do this, it wasn’t an extra activity. International solidarity with our sisters and brothers around the world is a priority!”