by admin

On behalf of the Özak Textile workers who are members of our union, we once again call for dialogue, both to prevent further harm to your company and to avoid further distress to the workers.

As workers at Özak Textile engaged in production for Levi’s, we have been working under conditions where excessive production pressure, mobbing, mandatory overtime exceeding 18 hours adversely affecting 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 early as the beginning of November 2023, before the dismissals and the commencement of actions by workers in response, 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 during our meetings and discussions with our member workers. We requested meetings to resolve these issues through dialogue. However, not only was our request for a meeting left unanswered, but also our attempts to establish communication went unanswered each time.

Despite this, in our effort to force a resolution to the issues through dialogue, we suggested that at least the worker representatives affiliated with our union engage in discussions with the factory management by having our member workers submit their complaints to the factory management in writing. Our fellow workers wanted to present the text, which contained complaints and demands regarding rights violations and was signed by nearly 450 workers, to the factory management on the morning of November 27. Unfortunately, the factory management responded to this goodwill and democratic gesture with an uncompromising and threatening attitude. Not only were the signed texts not accepted, but also on the same day, our fellow worker Seher Gülel, who had recently joined our union and had been threatened with dismissal for this reason before, was fired.

Since workers began to join our union in early November, the actions of representatives of the Öz İplik-İş union and some factory managers, who individually summoned workers and pressured them to resign from our union and rejoin Öz İplik-İş, have caused serious concern and a strong reaction among workers. When threats of further dismissals following the dismissal of one of our colleagues on November 27 were added to these actions, it triggered a collective response from the workers, and the protest began.

After more than 500 workers stopped working and initiated the protest, as union leaders, we also came to the front of the factory and repeatedly requested a meeting for the resolution of the issues and the restoration of industrial peace in the workplace. We expressed the same request in statements to the press and through various intermediaries.

Despite the harsh interventions, detentions, and other adversities faced by workers and union leaders like ourselves since the beginning of the protest two months ago, we remain committed to resolving the issue through dialogue, just as we were on the first day.

The violations of rights experienced by workers at Özak Textile, including the lack of recognition of the right to choose a union, and certain rights violations suffered by workers, especially threats and mobbing against female workers, have already become the subject of international campaigns and fall into the category of rights violations that are unacceptable for a corporate enterprise engaged in production for international brands.

As you are aware, the majority of workers at Özak Textile in Şanlıurfa OSB have joined our union. You would agree that the right of workers to unionize and choose a union is a right guaranteed by the constitution, laws, and international agreements, which is also binding for you.

Attempting to prevent workers from exercising this legal, legitimate, and democratic right through methods such as pressure, mobbing, and threats is not only a crime under Turkish laws and the constitution but also contrary to international agreements such as the ILO conventions, to which our country is a party, regulating the fundamental rights of workers.

In addition to national and international laws and agreements, there are also contracts encompassing social responsibility duties and principles directly binding on you, as a supplier of your factory, which is a part of the international supply chain, to ensure that the fundamental rights and freedoms of workers are not violated. These contracts involve international brands such as Levi’s and Zara, which you produce for.

As you know, these contracts with the brands you produce for contain explicit provisions. Failure to comply with these contracts, which include strict provisions regarding workers’ fundamental rights and social compliance principles in workplaces within the international supply chain, would prevent you from continuing to produce the products of these brands at Özak Textile and affiliated factories.

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, Levi’s and Zara have reached the final stage of terminating their 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 favor 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.

The demands of our union and the workers are entirely reasonable and justified:
1- Reinstatement of the workers who were dismissed for being members of our union,
2- Payment of wages for the days of the protest, during which the workers were disadvantaged in every respect,
3- Respect for the workers’ right to choose a union, unionize, and be represented,
4 – 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. Our union is ready to fulfill 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.

So far, the ongoing pressures and rights violations against our member workers in the factory indicate that the factory management is not respecting the rights of the workers and is taking an approach far from resolving the issues through dialogue. However, we still call on you to act responsibly and to contact our union as soon as possible to resolve these issues and to recognize the demands of the workers. At this point, we reiterate that we are ready to engage in discussions and take responsibility for resolving the issues through dialogue.

Yours sincerely,

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