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Turkey: Workers sacked for organizing a union

If this story sounds familiar, it's because it has happened before.

Four women workers have been dismissed from SF Trade in Izmir, Turkey, for organizing a union at the leather and textile company.

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Last year, workers at SF Trade, which supplies global brands with textile and leather goods, started a campaign to organize a union. They wanted overtime pay, to work without excessive production pressure and to be respected. They chose IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Deriteks to represent them and began recruiting members.

The company’s management was quick to start anti-union tactics. Ayşe and Pınar - two women who led the organizing campaign - were dismissed on 25 October 2019, allegedly for poor performance. They were taken to separate rooms without their mobile phones, and told to sign resignation letters, or lose their severance payments. They began a picket in front of the factory at the Aegean Free Trade Zone near Izmir.

The management continues to threaten workers with dismissal if they join the union. In December 2019, Nurcan was forced to resign from the union, and Sevcan in January 2020. Both were dismissed.

The company continues to breach international core labour standards as well as Turkish constitutional rights. The company again sued for damages, accusing workers of undermining competitiveness due to their social media posts.

SF Trade has a history of union busting. In 2015, union workers fought and won justice at the company after a long struggle. The company is attacking the union again – and meeting the same resistance.

In 2015 the company, at the time called SF Leather, dismissed 14 workers for joining Deriteks. SF Leather tried to end the organizing campaign by forcing union members to resign from Deriteks. The company sued the workers and the union, accusing them of damaging the company’s commercial interests.

After a global campaign (including a LabourStart online campaign) and 198 days of struggle, Deriteks and SF Leather reached an agreement. SF Leather paid compensation to the workers, and withdrew lawsuits against Deriteks.

Five years ago, we forced the company to back down. Now, we have to do it again.

Please take a moment to show your support for these brave women workers:

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