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18 April 2017

BWI Solidarity Mission to Turkey

The BWI recently completed a solidarity mission to Ankara, Turkey, on April 10th and 11th 2017. The delegation included BWI President Per Olof Sjoo, Assistant Education Secretary Jasmin Rezpedovic, Vasyl Andreyev, PROFBUD President, Ukraine, and Co- Chair of the BWI Ad-hoc Working Group on Youth, and Dr. Fabiola Mieres, Global Project Coordinator. Gülsah Doruk, BWI's Project Coordinator in Turkey worked with BWI's Turkish affiliates in the preparations of the mission.

BWI President Per-Olof Sjoo stated, "It was very important for us to express our support and solidarity with our trade union affiliates in Turkey who are working very hard in a very difficult political context of the country."

Vasyl Andreyev also highlighted, "It is fundamental to stay close to our Turkish affiliates during times of turmoil in Turkey."

On the first day of the mission the BWI delegation took part in the Third Congress organised by the Forestry and Agriculture Union TARIM ORMAN–IS. President Sukru Durmus welcomed the delegation and addressed the challenges that the forestry sector is facing in Turkey vis-à-vis policies of neoliberalisation which are turning the use of forests into commercial areas as well as the contemporary political context in which anti-union tactics are being put in place.

Mr. Durmus finished his speech with encouraging words, "We will see the light at the end of the tunnel. This Third Congress it is a sign that we are still here and I am hopeful that we can build new policies for our struggles."

President of BWI, Per-Olof Sjoo gave a speech in which he praised the work of TARIM ORMAN-IS in activities to combat climate change, address the situation of refugees in Turkey, highlighted the efforts in the LabourStart Campaign in Cerattepe, Artvin, and emphasised BWI’s support in all of their efforts.

The BWI delegation also met with leaders of the unions YOL-IS (Turkish Road Building and Construction Union), AGAC-IS (Turkish Wood and Paper Workers' Union), and ORMAN-IS (Turkish Forest Workers' Union). President of YOL-IS Ramazan Ağar received the delegation at YOL-IS’ building and discussed recent organising successes and avenues for future work.

The delegation also visited the AGAC-IS head office and President of AGAC-IS Mursel Tasci, General Secretary Gokhan Gunaydin and Finance Secretary Hasan Dogan shared organising projects in the city of Izmir as well as other updates on their organising work.

At ORMAN-IS, the delegation met President Baki Yuksel, General Secretary Enver Yavuz and Education Secretary Ramazan Akdag who shared the set of challenges that their union is facing due to political pressures, and competition from other unions.

A meeting was also held with President Sukru Durmus, General Secretary Mehmet Ali Basaran and other board members at TARIM ORMAN-IS in which BWI delegates got an update on the situation of forestry and agriculture public servants as well as other issues.

Finally, the BWI delegation and the above-mentioned union Presidents met with Mr. Ahmet Erdem, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The meeting provided an opportunity for BWI affiliates to express their concerns regarding the political situation in Turkey and how it affects trade unions’ work. BWI’s President Per-Olof Sjoo reiterated BWI’s support in all of our affiliates’ efforts.

Turkey will go through a big test on April 16th, 2017 as a referendum will be held to vote on constitutional amendments that would transform the country from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential system.