Various civil servant unions exhibited an act of solidarity in holding combined protests at most locations but there were also a few places where they held separate demonstrations. The protests were mostly peaceful and scuffles broke out between police and protesters in only a few provinces other than the major centers of İstanbul and Ankara. The eighth and final meeting between the government and civil servant unions about pay rises to be applied this and next year failed to yield an agreement on Monday.
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government increased its offer to a raise of 3.5 percent for the first half and 4 percent for the second half of the year for 2012 from an earlier offer of 3 percent for each half, but the unions remained undaunted in their demand for twice as much as what the government deemed fit.
In Ankara, members of the Turkish Public Workers’ Labor Union (Kamu-Sen) gathered in Abdi İpekçi Park. “You have come here disregarding all obstacles and threats. May God be pleased with all of you,” union President İsmail Koncuk told the protesters. “Mr. Prime Minister says Turkey will turn into Greece if we give [more money] to civil servants and pensioners. Turkey did not become Greece when the government gave TL 2 billion in incentives to 450 wealthy people and I’m asking now, will it become so when the money is given instead to civil servant and pensioners? I’m now calling on the prime minister. What are we to do with a 35 percent hike in the natural gas price and a 22 percent hike in electricity? Hasn’t fuel become 24 percent more expensive? Or are we living in a different country?” he added.
Speaking on a TV program on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan responded, in a way, to Koncuk’s criticism. He said the government pays some TL 100 billion in civil servant salaries each year and every 1 percent increase brings about an extra cost of TL 1 billion to the budget. “If we now push our budget balances, then this will eventually translate into higher taxes at some point,” he underlined, drawing attention to how little the executive branch has room for maneuver on improving civil servant pay. Speaking on another TV program on the same day was Labor and Social Security Minister Faruk Çelik. He said the civil servant unions made “too hasty a decision” to take to the streets. “When they receive the increased salaries on June 15, they will accept it,” he said. With the government’s planned increase, the minimum monthly salary for a civil servant will become TL 1,757 ($950).
Members of the Civil Servants’ Trade Union (Memur-Sen) preferred to do a sit-in protest in Ankara’s Güven Park. The presidents of the Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions (Hak-İş) and the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Türk-İş), Mahmut Arslan and Mustafa Kumlu, came to the park to show support for their cause.