Their strategy paid off!
BBC workers in Turkey & their union @TGS_org_tr recently won an inflation-busting deal & extended healthcare coverage to their families under difficult circumstances.
Take a look at some of the key organising approaches they applied in this #UnionWin ?
— UNI Europa (@UNI_Europa) February 15, 2022
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.
✌️ We won! After 15 days in below zero temperatures the #BBCTurkeyStrike has ended with success!
— Gazeteciler Sendikası (@TGS_org_tr) January 29, 2022
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.
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.
— Philippa Childs (@philippachilds) January 29, 2022
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.