Trade unions in Turkey : an analysis of their development, role and present situation
This thesis focuses on the trade union movement in Turkey with particular reference to the Turkish confederation of trade unions (TURK-IS) and its members. Case studies were conducted in both TURKIS and its member unions, widely, based on open-ended interviews with union officials, but also involving the analysis of union's reports, documents and journals, the observation of workers education seminars and visits to the state's institutions and employers' organisations. The main purposes of the thesis have been to illustrate the changing nature, role and struggle of the Turkish unions in the context of the changing economic, political and social structure of Turkey. It also focuses on the dominant trends in trade unionism in a European context. The study argues that an explicit and theorised understanding of internal and external pressure on the trade union movements as they emerge in many countries, is of fundamental significance to the Turkish trade unions. It is argued that the trend in the Turkish labour relations in the 1960s and 70s seemed to be the co-operation of unions in the formulation of policies, related to national economic performance and social stability in politics. In other words, unions were tolerated to provide both economic and social stability at macro level and manageability and certainty at micro level in the light of the industrialisation process. In this context, Import Substitution Industrialisation (lSI) was the model of capital accumulation, which required trade unions to become integrated within the new economic and political policies in order to secure an economically and politically stable industrial relations framework. In this respect, the Turkish unions played a mediating role between the state, employers and workers. It is also argued that the changing system of capital accumulation (a move from lSI to "market liberalism") in the 1980s has endangered the traditional institutional arrangements. The traditional role of interest representation for unions, particularly as mediation between the ruling class and working class, has become problematic. The decline of union power, due to changes in their environments, has also weakened the value of central labour organisations as mediators between the state, employers and workers. The anti-labour policies seems to have been the outcome of strategic interventions of the governments and employers. In this context, particularly in the 1980s explicit reference to theoretical frameworks have tended to increase in favour of "strategic choices" and "union identities". The study argues that in the Turkish case, unions have not been faced with a complete policy of exclusion. In other words, the material conditions of "integrative" "collaborative" or "corporatist" policies have been reduced, however, they have not been completely eliminated. The reasons for this might be that although the economic power of TURK-IS and its members was no longer so important for the government, the political mediating role of unions became significant in the period of the 1980s, which included the transition to democracy, the process of integration of Europe, the implementation of austerity policies and the fear of the possible failure of the parliamentary regime. I argue in the thesis that under the painful and complex process of economic and political reconstruction and the development of democracy the Turkish trade unions have been faced with a number of tactical and political options in the rapidly evolving the issue of European Integration and of democracy and the increasing uniformity amongst member of TURK-IS. The Turkish case suggests that trade unions can achieve a position of influence in industrial relations systems as long as they pursue politically motivated strategies by setting a new agenda for members, articulating the broad long-term interests of the working class and finally displaying collective responses and collective responsibility. In this respect, it is argued that there is still a significant scope for a more active initiating and coordinating role for central labour organisations and unions can pursue more comprehensive and tenable trade union strategies.