As workers employed at Özak Textile, producing for Levi’s, we have been working under conditions involving excessive production pressure, mobbing, mandatory overtime exceeding 18 hours that adversely affects workers’ health, unjustified and uncompensated dismissals, even skilled and senior workers receiving wages at or near the minimum wage level, lack of recognition of the right to choose a union, pressure exerted by the authorized union in collusion with the employer on behalf of the workers, and absence of any democratic representation and dialogue mechanism for workers to convey their complaints and demands regarding the violations of their rights.
As of the beginning of November 2023, even before the dismissals and the protests initiated by the workers, during our meetings and discussions with our member workers, we conveyed numerous complaints in writing to the factory management regarding the pressure, mobbing, attempts to coerce workers into changing unions, and other rights violations that many workers shared with us. We requested meetings to resolve these issues through dialogue. However, not only were our requests for meetings left unanswered until today, but also our efforts to establish communication were consistently ignored.
Despite the harsh interventions, detentions, and all anti-democratic practices faced by workers and union leaders like ourselves in the past two months since the beginning of the protest, we are still committed to resolving the issue through dialogue, just as we were on the first day.
It is our understanding that Levi’s, after having been made aware of the protests and the issues, has investigated matters and that Levi’s confirms that the right to freedom of association has not been respected, and that Levi’s has requested Özak to reinstate the dismissed workers, and to engage in dialogue with BİRTEK-SEN.
At this point, due to Özak Textile’s uncompromising stance in putting an end to these rights violations and accepting the entirely justified and legitimate demands of the workers, we assume Levi’s must be nearing the final stage of terminating its supply relationship with Özak Textile.
The termination of this order relationship is not a situation preferred by either our union or the workers. As BİRTEK-SEN, it is the last thing we want. We are in favour of this factory continuing its production. However, this production cannot continue by disregarding the most fundamental rights of workers, such as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to choose a union. It is unacceptable for the employer to prevent workers from earning their livelihood through dismissals and blacklisting. We appeal to you to only take this last resort step after once more stressing the possibility for the factory to avoid withdrawal by taking several simple steps.
The demands of our union and the workers are entirely reasonable and justified:
- Reinstatement of the workers who were dismissed for being members of our union,
- Payment of wages for the days of the protest, during which the workers were disadvantaged in every respect,
- Respect for the workers’ right to choose a union, unionize, and be represented,
- Signing a mutual protocol with our union on behalf of the workers to guarantee the above demands.
As a union, our priority is to ensure that the economic activity, corporate identity, productivity of production, and industrial peace of Özak Textile, where the majority of workers in Şanlıurfa are our members, are not harmed. The most important condition for this is for the factory management to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the workers who carry out this production and to create a trust that they are meticulous about it. One of the most important elements in establishing industrial peace, harmony, and a safe environment within the factory is a union that expresses the problems and demands of workers. We are pleased that this is also your position as a buyer from Özak, and ask you tell Özak again that our union is ready to fulfil the responsibility that falls on us to establish a culture of mutual trust and understanding and a democratic process between the employer and the workers.
Note: As of today, we have communicated to Özak Textile Group President Mr. Urfi Akbalık and the factory management once again, expressing our call for a meeting to resolve the issues through dialogue and attaching a letter containing the demands of the workers. A copy of this letter is also attached as a file to this email.
BİRTEK-SEN General President