Turkish government confiscates labor union’s land

On January 20 2020, a presidential decree was published that gave the General Workers Union’s land to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The union also learned that the operation was being done as if in an emergency with high priority and haste

Turkish government confiscates labor union’s land

Genel-İş is the labor union of “General Workers” the workers of the provincial governments in Turkey.

Genel-İş had a plan to build a vacation community for workers to enjoy the beautiful sea coast of İzmir, Urla. Under the leadership of the socialist ex-president Abdullah Baştürk, the union purchased a land overlooking one of the most beautiful spots facing the Aegean Sea.

The history of the union and its legendary leader Abdullah Baştürk shows the importance socialists gave to the lives, the well-being and struggles of the working class.

Baştürk started his labor union career in the Genel-İş union while it was under the labor confederation Türk-İş. The confederation was not addressing neither the economic nor the political will of the working classes in the 1960’s when he became the president of his union. He opposed the “above politics” approach of the confederation as being a tool of right wing politics. In 1976, he led the entire union to leave the conservative confederation and join the progressive DISK, the Confederation of Progressive Labor Unions.

He also became the president of DISK in 1977 but was arrested under the fascist military rule in 1980 to serve a 4-year prison sentence. The entire properties and wealth of this progressive union confederation was confiscated by the government.

He had briefly joined the Workers’ Party of Turkey, a socialist organization that showed great success in the early 1960’s. He was elected to represent the opposition mainstream party CHP twice after joining this “state party.” Baştürk was active in reorganizing the DISK confederation after his release and the higher court’s ruling that lifted the ban on the labor organization. He died in 1991 from a stroke.

In an effort to provide the workers a vacation spot the land was purchased in 1975 under Baştürk’s leadership.

However, the Turkish government was not going to let the workers enjoy vacations in spots which could bring high profits for the tourism investors. So, in move to prevent this initiative the government declared the union’s real estate location as a “nature preserve” preventing any development. This was the first step.

Putting the rest of the plan in motion, the Turkish government of the conservative, right wing AKP party finally took out the natural preserve status but also decided that this land had to be nationalized.

This gave the government the right to decide the future of the prime real estate spot.

The AKP government has been the champion of privatizations, open looting of natural resources, and corruption as its sources of income declined and the economic crisis devastates the country.

On January 20 2020, a presidential decree was published that gave the union’s land to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The union also learned that the operation was being done as if in an emergency with high priority and haste.

The Genel-İş objected to this theft which has not been officially acknowledged or even communicated to the union. In its statement the labor organization said the land will be taken over by the government and will be rented long-term to a private investor for touristic investment which may mean building expensive hotels and restaurants. The statement called attention to the fact that other real-estates owned by private parties around the union’s property had not been confiscated or nationalized. Only the workers’ land had been targeted. There are rumors that a golf club is also planned when the property is confiscated and privatized.

The union is planning on challenging the presidential decree in the high courts and if it can’t get results that returns the land back to the rightful owner, the union, they will apply to the Human Rights Court in the European Union.

Sendika.Org News (M.B.)