Civil servants strike, protest gov’t wage offer
Unhappy with the government’s offer, hundreds of civil servants held a protest in İstanbul’s Beyazıt Square on Wednesday, shouting “We are hungry, we want a higher raise!” (PHOTOSUNDAY’S ZAMAN, Mehmet Yaman)
Civil servants went on strike at educational institutions, hospitals, tax offices and train stations across the country on Wednesday to protest a government pay rise offer they say is too little and not reflective of the economic realities of the present time.
Various civil servant unions acted in 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; scuffles between police and protesters broke out 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 for this year and the next failed to reach 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 what the government offered.
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,” 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 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?”