Turkish purge, Greek austerity and the continued fight for Another Europe

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

An intense political year comes to a close  during which we focused extensively on human rights violations and threats to democracy in Turkey.  The Turkish authorities have been attacking voices critical to its regime for over a year now. The failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016 in which almost 250 died and over 2000 were injured was condemned by the unions in Turkey and globally. Turkish political parties, media and other organisations were equally adamant in their condemnation of the attack on democracy. What could have lead to a strengthening of Turkish democracy was followed however by a state of emergency and decree laws. These measures were prolonged several times. We have reported on what this has meant for Turkish society, workers, trade unions, journalists and media many times. The Turkish government celebrated the 1 year coup by arresting yet more human rights defenders and journalists critical of the Government's  actions. The President and other political figures evoked again the death penalty for “terrorists.”  At the same time 21 members of public sector trade union confederation KESK and its unions,  and including its co-chair Lami Özgen,  are facing jail sentences for belonging to “illegal and armed” organisations. Based on events in 2008, the 16th Chamber of the Court of Cassation recently confirmed the sentences given by the 8th Chamber of Izmir Court of Assize on 28 November 2011. There was no proof, evidence clearing the accused was not considered and the trial was widely seen as unfair. EPSU and ETUCE have sent letters to the Turkish minister asking for the trade union colleagues to be cleared this week. The case is trumped-up to pressure the unions. KESK has been uncompromising in its critique of the Government before and especially since the state of emergency laws. Several thousands of its members have been dismissed and many are arrested. Our colleagues need our solidarity. Visiting them or contributing to the legal defense of trade union members via the Turkish solidarity fund will assist.

The pressure on trade union and civil rights is also intense elsewhere in Europe, as the situation in Poland further demonstrates.

And it is about 2 years ago that the Greek Government was forced to accept the terms of a new Memorandum of Understanding and new structural reform measures (July/August 2015). It was a half year into government after a massive  electoral victory and new hopes for the country.  Amongst many other things the Government was forced to privatise companies in water and energy that it had promised to keep in public ownership. It is now moving forward with legislation and plans to realise the privatisations. EPSU participated in an event in Brussels in which close to 200.000 signatures were handed to the EU Council opposing the privatization of Greek water, demonstrating that Greek workers are not standing alone in their opposition. Workers in the energy company PPC likewise are facing proposals to break up and privatize the public company. The IMF continues to demand the reform of collective bargaining, pressurising the Government not to reverse  the weakening of workers' power that it was forced to accept earlier. This is an ideological demand. An international commission has earlier indicated that there is no justification nor support for such reforms. This is part of the austerity policies that we continue to confront not just in Greece but also in other European countries.

While there has been some economic recovery last year, many public service workers are not seeing  positive effects yet. Austerity measures are still imposed across Europe. We  support the demand that Europe’s public service workers need a pay rise in the frame of the European Trade Union Confederation campaign.  Ending austerity is needed as the basis for progress in the Future of Europe debate of which the Commission’s pillar of social rights is one part. With ETUC we will campaign for improvements and real content. A key meeting is foreseen in Gothenburg on the 17th of November. It is time for Social Europe now. We have a busy year ahead of us.

As for now, we wish you all a good summer break. Enjoy it. We look forward to work with you back in September.