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Demands of Özak Textile Workers, whose Right to Choose a Trade Union was Usurped and who were Collectively Dismissed, Still Not Accepted

With the press conference held on February 13th, Özak Textile workers, members of our union, who had taken action against mobbing, oppression, forced overtime work, usurpation of the right to choose a union and dismissals, and who had been resisting for 80 days, ended our resistance in front of the factory and Özak Holding in Istanbul.

From the day the action began, the Özak employer’s political relations with the government and officials have been extremely effective.  The boss-collaborator attitude of authorities such as the governor’s office, district governorships, law enforcement agencies and the Ministry of Labor, interventions and action bans aimed at suppressing the peaceful and constitutional protest of workers and our union, and the repeated harsh interventions and 190 detentions of our union leaders and workers during the protests made it impossible for us to continue the resistance.

At this stage, despite all the calls and efforts of our union to establish dialogue for a solution, the Özak boss has not taken any positive steps to end these rights violations, to recognize the right to choose a union and to reinstate the dismissed workers.

The Levi’s brand, which manufactures in the Şanlıurfa factory where all these injustices took place, has decided to sever its relationship with Özak Tekstil in the face of Özak Tekstil management’s insistence on these rights violations and refusal to accept our just demands.

However, brands, including your brand, continue to be produced at Özak Tekstil’s factory in Istanbul and at the Kübra Tekstil factory in Malatya, also belonging to Özak Holding.

The fact that the Özak boss continues to take orders from other brands in other factories is an incentive for the Özak boss to insist on his attitude that ignores the most basic rights of workers, especially the right to choose a union.

Although the factories in Malatya and Istanbul appear to be institutionally different workplaces, they belong to the same boss and are managed with the same understanding.

We know that you have a code of conduct that guarantees the fundamental rights and freedoms of workers, especially the freedom of union organization, and that you are sensitive about such rights violations. We believe that it is unacceptable in terms of the principles of your brand and your social responsibilities that you continue your relationship with the same employer who is responsible for these violations of rights in other factories owned by an employer who committed these inhumane practices and rights violations against the workers in Şanlıurfa, as if nothing happened.

As a union, our primary preference and effort is, of course, for your orders and production to continue in these workplaces.

However, this should be possible only if the Özak boss respects the fundamental rights of workers, recognizes the right to choose a union and freedom of association, and accepts the demands of the dismissed Özak Tekstil workers and reinstates them.

We know that the ordering relationship with your supplier, the Özak Tekstil boss, has a decisive influence on the end of these rights violations and the acceptance of our legitimate demands.

We demand that you fulfill this decisive influence and responsibility so that the Özak boss puts an end to these rights violations and that our members who were dismissed after recognizing our union are reinstated.

Our demands

1 – Unconditional reinstatement of all workers members of our union who were dismissed as of November 27, 2023 and who want to return to work.

2- One of our important demands was to be paid the wages of the dismissed workers for the days they were out of work until the date they were reinstated. However, as the workers’ side, we are ready to make sacrifices and show flexibility on this issue in order to serve the solution. Due to economic difficulties and desperation, 96% of the 395 dismissed workers had to agree to the terms proposed by the boss at the mediator and received their severance and notice pay. However, 24 workers have still not been paid their severance and notice pay.

Our demand is as follows:

1- if all the dismissed workers who have requested reinstatement (around 165) are reinstated by March 1 at the latest, they should be paid only one month’s wages for the three months they have been out of work. If reinstatement takes place after March 1, the period beyond March 1 should be added to one month’s wages.

2- The 24 workers who have not yet received compensation should be paid for the entire period of unpaid time.

3- Workers should be assured that their right to choose a union will be recognized and that they will not be pressured for this reason in the future.

4- Özak Tekstil management must give a written commitment that includes the above three points. In addition to the three items above, the commitment letter should include the following assurance:

-in the event of a workers’ complaint about rights violations in the workplace, the union to which the worker or workers with the complaint belong will be taken into account by the employer or the employer’s representatives to solve the problem.

-In addition, the union of which the workers are members must have the right to meet with the employer or employer representatives in line with the demands of the workers on working conditions, wage arrangements, etc. in the workplace.

-the right to meet with their own members within the workplace should be recognized.

Important note:

Özak Tekstil’s new trick is a name change

The Özak boss is using a new trick to get rid of the name Özak Tekstil, which has been tarnished by rights violations and worker hostility, to trick brands into reordering.

Özak Tekstil in Şanlıurfa is constantly hiring new workers even though the Levi’s brand has decided to cut its orders.

Also two days ago, a written announcement was posted in the workplace announcing the transfer of Özak Tekstil to Kubrateks.

Kübrateks was already owned by Özak Holding. Now Özak is transferring its factories to Kübrateks, which is also owned by Özak. The owners are the same, they are just changing the name.

The Özak Tekstil management wants to cover up the violations of rights, the massacre of workers for using their right to choose a union, and their union hostility in this way. They want to improve the image of the factory and get orders from international brands in this way. However, this is a way to deceive both workers and brands.

We want your brand to act carefully and responsibly in this issue. If Özak Tekstil wants to improve its image and continue production by receiving orders from these brands, the only right way to do this is to accept our demands, immediately reinstate the dismissed workers and recognize their right to choose a union.

Besides, the Özak boss indirectly says that he can only hire the dismissed workers part by part. He justifies this by saying that there will be no orders and that there will be over-employment, and that he will be able to hire them little by little as orders and production increase.

This is unacceptable because;

1- The intention here is to bring in workers in small minorities, to neutralize their organization and to intimidate them by putting pressure on them. It is not possible for us to accept this when there have been dozens of similar examples in this workplace.

2- The justification of the need for employment is a complete lie! Because after the workers went on strike on November 27, many new workers were hired at the workplace. And the hiring is still ongoing. If the employer was honest and sincere about this issue, they would not have hired new workers when there were workers who were fired and have been unemployed and victimized for three months. We have concrete documents and information that new workers are still being hired. We are sending examples of documents showing that workers were hired through İşKur and through announcements as an annex to this e-mail.

The aim of the boss here is to punish the majority of BİRTEK-SEN union members by not hiring them and to completely eliminate BİRTEK-SEN members in the workplace.

395 BİRTEK-SEN members were dismissed. And since the list of names of these workers has been sent to other factories and there is a blacklist practice among the bosses, none of them can find a job in Şanlıurfa Organized Industrial Zone. In other words, Özak Tekstil not only dismissed workers who used their right to choose a union, but also usurped their right to work and continue their lives in other factories.

Note 2: We are enclosing the text of the press statement we made on February 13th, in which we summarized the process.

Sincerely yours,

Mehmet Türkmen

BİRTEK-SEN General President



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