Gov’t, unions to continue meetings in run-up to referendum

Gov’t, unions to continue meetings in run-up to referendum

Hayati Yazıcı

August 19, 2010, Thursday/ 16:23:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
A proposal from the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) to postpone talks with the government on salary increases for next year until after the upcoming referendum on constitutional reforms was rejected by government authorities at yesterday’s negotiations due to legal obstacles.

Following this decision the negotiations were set to continue as usual without the prospect of a collective contract, which will be made possible after the Sept. 12 referendum if the proposed amendments are approved by popular vote.

At the first meeting on Sunday, KESK offered to postpone the talks until after the referendum, assuming that the public will approve the 26-article amendment package, which will give unions the right to a collective contract with the government over increases to civil servants’ salaries. Currently, the unions, though able to talk with the government over the matter, do not have any say over the rate of increase to be applied since the decisions of the Arbitration Board, the intermediary authority between the government and the unions, are not binding. If the proposed amendments to the current Constitution are approved in the referendum, the board’s decisions will be binding on both sides.

KESK’s offer at the first meeting was endorsed by the Civil Servants’ Trade Union (Memur-Sen) but opposed by the Turkish Public Workers’ Labor Union (Kamu-Sen). KESK decided not to attend the following rounds of the 15-day talks because of the rejection of its proposal, but also because there is no consensus among the unions over the matter.

Before leaving the Prime Ministry, where the meetings are being held, KESK President Sami Evren accused the government of not holding the talks according to the standards of the proposed reforms. He said KESK would never be a “proxy” organization for a political party. Evren argued that the meetings between the government and the unions are in vain without the right to a collective contract.

Ironically, KESK has announced they do not support the proposed constitutional amendments in which they have invested their hopes. The union has sparked an immense backlash from civil society for this inconsistency.

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