Confederation of labour unions founded on July 31, 1952; affiliated to ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions) and ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation).

The founders of Türk-Is were the Trade Union Confederation of Ankara, the League of Trade Unions of Bursa, the Federation of Trade Unions of Eskisehir-Sakarya Region, the Federation of Trade Unions of Adana and the South, the League of Trade Unions of Istanbul, the League of Trade Unions of Izmir, the Trade Union Federation of the Black Sea Region, the Federation of Transport Workers of Turkey (TIF), the Federation of Unions of Hotel, Restaurant and Entertainment Facility Workers (TOLEYiS) and the Federation of Textile and Knitwear Industry Workers’ Unions (TEKSIF).

The temporary board of the confederation was composed of Ömer Akcakanat (chairman), Saban Yildiz (general secretary), Seyfi Demirsoy, Mehmet Inhanli and Adil Bugakaptan.

The charter of Türk-Is explained its aims as: defending the economic and social interests of its members, upholding and extending the democratic rights of workers, striving for the improvement of labour and social insurance laws, ensuring the organization of all workers in trade unions, and advancing the principle of equal pay for equal work.

The confederation held its first general assembly on 6.9.1952 in Izmir. The report to the congress declared that some of the high-priority tasks of Türk-Is were to establish new unions in those branches where no unions existed, to amalgamate the different unions in the same branch in each province, to combine trade unions in federations, to strive for the amendment of the Labour Code so as to cover all working people employed in industry, agriculture, commerce or elsewhere and to advocate the recognition of the right to strike to all workers. The congress elected Ismail Inan as chairman, Muammer Özerkan as general secretary and Ismail Aras as accountant. The last two were later dismissed from their posts and were replaced by Adil Bugakaptan and Ihsan Tekin.

The second general assembly meeting convened in Istanbul on 8-11.8.1953. It accepted the membership applications of DDY Isci Sendikalari Federasyonu (Federation of Unions of Railway Workers) and Bakir Madeni Iscileri Sendikasi (Union of Copper Mine Workers). A resolution was adopted for affiliation to ICFTU. The new board was composed of Naci Kurt (chairman), Ismail Inan (general secretary), Mehmet Inhanli, Burhanettin Asutay, Süreyya Birol, Zühtü Tetey, Ramazan Karamese, Seyfi Demirsoy and Yusuf Sidal. Naci Kurt was elected to the parliament in 1954 on the Democratic Party (DP) ticket, and his post remained vacant until 1957.

The third congress was held in Ankara on 19-21.6.1957, and it elected Nuri Beser (chairman), Ismail Inan, Ömer Ergün, Mahmut Yüksel, Burhanettin Asutay, Mehmet Inhanli, Seyfi Demirsoy, Ismail Aras, Cemil Gider, Celal Beyaz, Ibrahim Denizcier and Sabri Tigli to the board. A few months later Ismail Inan and Mahmut Yüksel were elected to the parliament, the first on the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the latter on the DP ticket, and had to leave their posts.

After the military intervention in 1960, chairman Nuri Beser was accused of winning the elections with the help of the former government and was expelled from Türk-Is, while the general secretary was forced to resign. The new leadership applied to the revolutionary government for the reopening of the trade union leagues closed under the DP rule and asked for permission to affiliate to ICFTU. This permission was granted. DP’s restriction on travelling abroad was also rescinded and Türk-Is leaders were able to develop their relations with their foreign colleagues.

The 4th congress convened in Ankara on 19-21.11.1960. The report to the congress stressed the importance of financial independence and admitted that up to then the main income of the confederation had been donations from governmental organizations. The general assembly elected the new board composed of Seyfi Demirsoy (chairman), Halil Tunc, Ömer Ergün, Ömer Karahasan, Hasan Özgünes, Kaya Özdemiroglu, Burhanettin Asutay, Ibrahim Denizcier, Ahmet Cehreli, Zeki Gedik, Avni Erakalin and Ismail Topkar.

On 31.12.1961 Türk-Is organized a rally at Sarachane Square in Istanbul with the demand for the legalization of the right to strike and to collective bargaining and for job security. The next year, on 22.12.1962, the confederation arranged a demonstration at Tandogan Square in Ankara to condemn communism.

After the enactment of the Trade Union Act and the Act on Collective Bargaining, Strike and Lockout on 24.7.1963, Türk-Is reorganized itself accordingly. Some of its member federations were converted into national type of unions. It now consisted of 5 branch federations, organizing 432 trade unions, and 6 branch unions.

Türk-Is held its fifth general assembly meeting in Bursa between 27.1-3.2.1964. A resolution was adopted to convert all federations into national type of unions and to amalgamate all member unions in the same industrial branch. The charter was amended so as to enlarge the board of managers from 9 to 21 members. The congress elected Seyfi Demirsoy as chairman, Halil Tunc as general secretary and Ömer Ergün as accountant. In 1966 Türk-Is opened its college for trade unionists. By this year the total members of its affiliates had reached 500,000.

The 6th congress took place in Ankara on 7-14.3.1966. In reply to the criticisms from a member of the parliament from the Workers Party of Turkey (TIP), chairman Seyfi Demirsoy declared that Türk-Is did not conduct class struggle, but a struggle for humane living conditions. The new executive committee elected at the congress was composed of Seyfi Demirsoy (chairman), Halil Tunc (general secretary), Ömer Ergün (accountant) and Ethem Ezgü and Selahattin Erkap (assistant general secretaries).

The strike waged by Kristal-Is at the Pasabahce glass factory in early 1966 brought the ongoing conflicts inside the confederation to the surface and Maden-Is, Petrol-Is, Lastik-Is, Basin-Is and Kristal-Is unions were suspended on the grounds that they had acted against the principles and discipline of unionism in their approach to the strike. Some of these unions later withdrew from Türk-Is to become the founders of DiSK.

At the 7th general assembly meeting on 15-22.4.1968, the former executive committee was reelected and a resolution was adopted defining the „24 principles" of Türk-Is.

In August 1969 Türk-Is organized a rally in Ankara to demand the lowering of the retirement age and higher pensions. The Social Insurance Act was later amended to accommodate these demands.

At the general elections in 1969, nine unionists from Türk-Is (Sevket Yilmaz, Hasan Türkay, Orhan Sorguc, Enver Turgut, Abdullah Bastürk, Osman Sogukpinar, Burhanettin Asutay, Bahir Ersoy and Emir Postaci) were elected to the parliament from different political party tickets.

The 8th general assembly meeting was held in Erzurum on 11- 16.5.1970. The assembly approved the membership of Türksen, the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions of Cyprus, and adopted the 24th principle of Türk-Is. The report to the congress expounded the proposal of Türk-Is regarding the changes in the Trade Union Act for reducing the number of trade unions, and maintained that such a modification would accelerate the organization of workers in unions. The assembly reelected the former executive committee.

The amendment of the Trade Union Act in conformity with the demands of Türk-Is led to the demonstrations of June 15-16, 1970 by DISK members. After these events, a large number of workers were arrested and fired from their jobs. Türk-Is announced that it did not condone the demonstrations, but also criticised the arrests and layoffs. Soon afterwards, four members of Türk-Is board of managers (Abdullah Bastürk, F. Sakir Ögünc, Halit Misirlioglu and Ismail Topkar) prepared a report and demanded Türk-Is to abandon its non-partisan policy. The number of Türk-Is leaders who supported the report later rose to 12. The board held several meetings to discuss the report, but decided finally that this policy was a stipulation of the charter of the confederation and should be maintained.

Türk-Is convened its ninth congress in Ankara on 28.5-5.6.1973. In his opening speech chairman Seyfi Demirsoy expressed the wish for a general amnesty for those imprisoned after the military coup in 1971. The general assembly reelected the former executive committee, with the exception of Selahattin Erkap who was replaced by Kaya Özdemir.

In late October 1973 Türk-Is convened the First Educational Conference of Workers which adopted a decision on the establishment of the Türk-Is Workers Education Foundation. Upon the death of Seyfi Demirsoy in January 1974, the board appointed Halil Tunc to the post of chairman.

Türk-Is suspended all strikes after July 20, 1974 on account of the Peace Action in Cyprus, when Turkish troops entered the island, and declared that „the Turkish workers movement was at the command of the Turkish nation and its courageous armed forces". Job actions were resumed by mid-September.

In March 1975 the confederation held the First Workers Congress in Ankara to discuss trade union and political issues. This was followed by similar meetings in other provinces. In April 1975 Türk-Is leaders made a declaration criticising employers for forming an aggressive front against workers by means of unfounded lockouts and protested the public sector for uniting with the private sector against labour. On June 16, 1975 Türk-Is called an 8-hour general strike to protest the indifference of the government to the problems of workers.

The 10th congress took place in Ankara on 12-18.4.1976. The charter was amended so as to allow the confederation to support a political party with the majority vote of the board. The new executive committee was composed of Halil Tunc (chairman), Sadik Side (general secretary), Ömer Ergün, Kaya Özdemir and Ethem Ezgü.

In this period Oleyis union withdrew from Türk-Is and the confederation launched efforts to organize a new union, Toleyis, in the hotel and entertainment branch. Türk-Is announced at this time that it had 700,000 dues-paying members.

In 1978 the confederation signed a Social Contract with the minority CHP government, delineating the principles of the forthcoming collective labour contract. Nevertheless, Türk-Is affiliates had to wage long-lasting strikes and job actions at various public enterprises to achieve their demands.

The 11th general assembly meeting took place in Ankara on 16-22.4.1979. The executive committee elected at this congress was composed of Ibrahim Denizcier (chairman), Sadik Side (general secretary), Ömer Ergün, Özdemir and Orhan Ercelik. In November 1979 Denizcier became the first Turkish unionist to be elected to the executive committee of ICFTU.

Türk-Is was the only confederation that was allowed to function after the military coup in 1980. Nevertheless, a subsequent decree of the military rule subjected the operations of Türk-Is and its affiliates to prior permission and banned collective bargaining. When general secretary Sadik Side was appointed as Minister of Labour by the national security council, ICFTU suspended the membership of Türk-Is. This membership was resumed afterwards, when Türk-Is declared that Sadik Side was on leave from the confederation.

The confederation was given two places in the Supreme Council of Arbitration (SCA) that was founded by the new regime. These two members opposed the principles of collective bargaining announced by the SCA and gave dissention votes to all the collective labour contracts resolved by this Council. Finally, in July 1982, they resigned from the SCA.

At the 12th general assembly meeting, on 24-28.5.1982, four previous members of the executive committee retained their positions, but Orhan Ercelik was replaced by Yusuf Ziya Kara. Ibrahim Denizcier died on July 14, 1983.

Türk-Is took part in the discussion of the new constitution and trade union legislation, and although its requests mainly went unheeded, it was able to ameliorate these laws to a certain extent.

An extraordinary congress was held on 18.7.1983 to modify the charter of the confederation to suit the new legislation, and all affiliated federations were converted to national type of unions.

The 13th general assembly meeting took place in Ankara on 21-25.12.1983. The executive committee elected at this meeting was composed of Sevket Yilmaz (chairman), Sadik Side (general secretary), Ömer Ergün, Orhan Balaban and Kaya Özdemir.

In 1984 and 1985 Türk-Is held several unsuccessful „summit meetings" with the new civilian government for the restoration of the trade union rights nullified by the military rule. Türk-Is then decided that a dialogue with the government was not possible and the workers had to take to action. Starting from October 1985, various meetings, demonstrations and marches were organized.

The 14th congress that convened in Ankara on 22-28.12.1986 declared 1987 as the year of action for Türk-Is. The executive committee elected at this meeting was composed of Sevket Yilmaz (chairman), Emin Kul (general secretary), Cetin Göcer, Mustafa Basoglu and Orhan Balaban.

The confederation acted on the resolutions of the congress and organized a series of actions in 1987. In November 1987 it also issued a joint declaration with Hak-Is expressing the solidarity between the two confederations. The disputes with the government were finally resolved in May 1989, when the two parties reached an agreement on the principles of the collective labour contracts and the amount of the wage raises.

The 15th general assembly meeting that was held in Ankara on 11-17.12.1989 decided to continue the struggle for the lifting of the constitutional and legislative bans on trade union rights and freedoms. It reelected Sevket Yilmaz to chairmanship and Orhan Balta, Enver Tocoglu, Mustafa Basoglu and Mehmet Bamyaci to the executive committee.

As of July 1992 the total membership of Türk-Is was reported as 1,766,535.

On 20.2.1990 there was a bombed attack to Türk-Is headquarters, whereupon Türk-Is members waged a 10-minute work stoppage. When the collective negotiations with the government reached an impasse in 1990, Türk-Is called a general strike on 3.1.1991. This action was supported by other sections of the society, such as students, professors, lawyers and some mass organizations.

In connection with First of May 1991 Türk-Is issued a declaration proclaiming that on that day it would organize meetings in 9 provinces and that the „First of May Declaration" would be read at the workplaces. The next year Türk-Is, Hak-Is and DISK issued a joint declaration, announcing that they regarded First of May as the „Day of Unity, Struggle and Solidarity" of workers, and organized a closed-hall meeting in Ankara for this occasion.

Türk-Is held its 16th general assembly in Ankara on 7-13.12.1992. In addition to the rights of workers, the resolutions adopted at this meeting also pointed to the need for a democratic solution to the problems of eastern and southeastern Anatolia and the prevention of the widespread murders by unknown persons in these regions. The new executive committee elected at this congress was composed of Bayram Meral (chairman), Semsi Denizer (general secretary), Enver Tocoglu, Salih Kilic and Sabri Özdes.

In this period the confederation continued its efforts to develop the cooperation between Türk-Is, Hak-Is and DISK. On First of May 1993 it organized a massive rally in Istanbul.

Türk-Is leadership criticised in 1993 the program of the new government that envisaged the privatization of a large number of public enterprises and stated that the aim of the program was massive firings and the weakening of trade unions. On July 22 and 30, 1993 members of the confederation reported sick collectively to protest the government’s attitude concerning the ongoing collective negotiations. In 1994 a series of rallies took place in various towns against privatizations and unemployment. That year the three confederations collaborated with the unions of public employees and other democratic organizations in forming a Democratic Platform that organized First of May demonstrations in almost all major provinces of Turkey.

The leadership of Türk-Is decided in July 1994 to wage various actions on the grounds that the government did not act in conformity with the dictates of the rule of law and neglected the urgent problems of workers. On July 20 work stoppages took place throughout the country. On 25.11.1994 the leaders of local Türk-Is organizations marched to the offices of the two parties in government to protest the draft budget law for 1995 and a march to the parliament took place the next day in Ankara.

First of May 1995 was celebrated by rallies organized again by the Democratic Platform in various cities.

In July and August 1995 Türk-Is members waged actions such as refusing to use the transport provided by workplaces, demonstrations and sit-ins against the uncompromising attitude of the government in the collective negotiations. As there was no change in this attitude by September, 145,000 workers went on strike on September 20. In the meantime there was a government crisis and the new minority government failed to obtain a vote of confidence due to its failure to reach an agreement with Türk-Is. The strikes in most of the public enterprises were suspended for 60 days, but Türk-Is decided that although workers would go back to their jobs, they would work only in proportion to the wages they were receiving. An agreement was finally reached on October 27, 1995.

The 17th general assembly of Türk-Is was held in Ankara on 5-10.12.1995. The board elected at this congress is composed of Bayram Meral (chairman), Semsi Denizer (general secretary), Enver Tocoglu, Salih Kilic and Sabri Özdes. Enver Tocoglu was sentenced in a law suit, and he was discharged from the board of Türk-Is. Opposing cases opened by Tocoglu at the 5. Labor Court in Ankara and the Court of Appeal were refused by both. Tamer Eralan took Tocoglu’s position in the board of Türk-Is.

It publishes „Türk-Is" (monthly), „Ekonomide Durum" (quarterly).

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | November 1998

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