The right of civil servants to unionize was first recognized by article 46 of the Constitution of 1961 and regulated by the Act on Unions of State Personnel that was passed on 14.6.1965. This Act did not grant civil servants the right to collective bargaining and strike. The first union of civil servants was founded in Ankara on 18.6.1965 under the name of Türkiye Devlet Büro Görevlileri Sendikasi (Union of State Office Employees of Turkey). This was followed by Istanbul Özel Idare Personeli Sendikasi (Union of the Local Government Personnel in Istanbul). As far as can be determined, 658 unions of civil servants were established until 1971, the largest of these being TÖS (Teachers’ Union of Turkey) that was founded on 8.7.1965 and Ilk-Sen (Union of Primary School Teachers of Turkey) founded on 11.7.1965. The boycott waged by these two unions between December 15-18, 1969 involved 109,000 employees in the education sector and was one of the largest actions undertaken by civil servant unions.

After the military intervention in 1971, article 46 of the Constitution was amended so that the word „employees" was replaced by „workers", and article 119 was modified to the effect that „civil servants.. cannot become members of political parties or trade unions". A temporary article was added prohibiting the activities of the unions that were established previously. Between 1971-1980 civil servants, now deprived of the right of forming trade unions, tried to make themselves heard by means of associations. However, the military coup in 1980 closed also the majority of these organizations.

The Constitution of 1982 did not include any regulation on unionization of civil servants, nor did it expressly prohibit such organizations. Nevertheless, no attempts were made in this respect until 1988. When it was disclosed at a symposium held in Istanbul in April 1988 that there were no legal barriers to the foundation of unions by civil servants, the idea of unionization began to be discussed widely. Egit-Der (Association of Educationists) organized another symposium in Ankara in September 1989 to debate the issue with public employees from different branches, and in 1990 the first unions were founded.

The governors of various provinces filed lawsuits on the grounds that civil servant unions were not allowed by the law and they should be closed, but the courts ruled in favour of civil servants. In July 1995 the Constitution was changed so that unionization became a constitutional right of civil servants. The relevant legal regulations have not, however, as yet been implemented.

As the number of civil servant unions grew, they also began in 1995 to unite in the form of confederations. As of July 1996 there are three confederations of civil servant unions:

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

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