How they organised to win: BBC workers in Turkey

How they organised to win: BBC workers in Turkey

 

Workers at the BBC Turkey office and their union TGS recently won an important agreement after 15 days of strike. In spite of the country’s highly anti-union legislation, the workers’ determination and strategic approach paid off with a salary increase of 32% (not including inflation) and an extension of healthcare coverage to their families. We take a look at how they did it.

 

Workers’ in the driving seat

When people put their job on the line to take collective action, they need to be convinced of what they are doing. Knowing this, the union staff made a very conscious effort from the very beginning of the campaign to put workers in control. All decisions were taken by consensus and strategic discussions were held with the participation of all workers. The union informed, the workers decided.

Labour law in Turkey explicitly prohibits the participation of workers in negotiations. The union however required that workers were present at all negotiations. While they did not intervene directly, they were able to witness the exchanges, giving them insight into the dynamics at play. In addition, the union made it clear both to the employer and the workers that no new decisions could be taken without the consensus of the collective of workers.

By determining the strategy and accessing negotiations, the workers built insight and crucially ownership of the campaign. When they took a decision, it was a collective decision. They owed it to each other to follow through. From the start, the union structured its interactions with the workers in order to nurture the feeling amongst the workers of being in it together. This meant that when things heated up, the workers had deep bonds of mutual trust on which they could draw and which proved crucial to weathering the long-term strike.

International solidarity

The support of workers and their unions outside of Turkey was also crucial. Like many companies in the services sectors, the BBC operates in many countries. The workers had to create points of leverage with a company headquartered in a distant country. In order to build pressure, they targeted the company’s country of establishment: the United Kingdom.

Through UNI and through the IFJ, TGS contacted UK unions Bectu and the NUJ. The unions have a well-established relationship with the employer. As well as opening up an additional channel of communication to relay the demands of the workers in Turkey to a higher level of management, this also provided additional opportunities to apply pressure on the company.

Bectu and NUJ demonstrated a strong commitment to international union solidarity. A number of NUJ workers even organised a demonstration outside the BBC headquarters. Cultivating this sense of international solidarity is crucial to effectively leverage pressure in the context of increasingly globalised corporations. This is all the more pertinent for unions operating within the same multinational as they have a uniting interest to keep any conflictual labour approaches by management at bay across all operations.

 

Plan for escalation

Back in Turkey, TGS had been planning for the worst and hoping for the best. They elaborate a long-term strategy, should the situation develop into a protracted conflict (which we won’t divulge here). By putting forward options to the workers on how they could collectively add further pressure, this also infused a sense of control and power amongst the workers.

 

Further information:

 

 

Meetings & Events

2022

06

Oct

ICTS Steering Committee

ICT & Related Services

Timetable TBC

06

Oct

Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee Temporary Agency Plenary Meeting

Agency Workers

Venue and Timing: TBC

10

Oct

-

11

Oct

ICTS Workshop -EU project VS 2021 0041

ICT & Related Services

Cross sectoral EU project “Eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work”

The first session on 10 October 2022 (from 13h30 – 17H30 CET) will be a workshop providing general information on the topic of violence and harassment at work and the different tools that social partners have to prevent this.
The second session on 11 October 2022 (from 10h00 – 13h00 CET) will focus on the sector-specific issues and best practices in this context.
The objective of this meeting is to provide sectoral input for the UNI Europa Equal Opportunities project and for the declaration on violence to be drafted by the Telecom Social Dialogue Committee.