Sunday 27 November 2016

Turkish teachers urgently need our financial support

URGENT ACTION APPEAL - TURKEY: Request for action and financial solidarity 

Today, (Sunday November 27) a congress of the Turkish teachers' trade union EĞITIM-SEN is meeting to discuss how to respond to the attacks on its members. In particular, they are voting on an emergency increase in subscription rates to help support their members who have lost their income because of victimisation by their Government. Trade unionists internationally can - and must - help them too!

Last month, under the guise of a new Presidential emergency decree, over 10,000 public sector employees, including around 800 members of EĞITIM-SEN, were permanently dismissed from their jobs. Over 50,000 more are temporarily suspended from their work. 

As was explained at an emergency meeting held in Ankara the day before, President Erdogan claims these dismissals and suspensions are to combat the threat of 'terrorism' after the failed July coup. They are nothing of the sort. In reality, his increasingly dictatorial regime is using the State of Emergency to launch a 'counter-coup', labelling a 'terrorist' anybody who opposes his regime.

The meeting in Ankara was attended by representatives from a range of Turkish political parties and international trade unions, including myself for the NUT, as well as some of the dismissed colleagues who had travelled there from across the country.

We heard Kamuran Karaca, President of EĞITIM-SEN explain that the Government’s actions "are a huge lie. We do not support any coup or violent attacks. The attacks on our union are not for the reasons given. We know why we are targeted, because we stand for secular free education, for democratic principles and peace, because we won't accept this 'new Turkey' ".

Trade unionists, journalists, elected MPs and Mayors have been detained. Newspapers and media channels have been closed down.  

Trade unionists face some of the worst attacks. As the President of the KESK trade union federation explained to the international trade union delegates later (from the Education International, OLME (Greece), GEW (Germany) and the NUT), the suspensions and dismissals could yet herald even greater repression against trade unions in Turkey. The sackings and suspensions of union activists that have already taken place are meant to intimidate workers as a whole into quietly accepting further attacks to come, for example with the 2017 Budget expecting to mean further cuts to living standards.

I spoke to bring solidarity greetings on behalf of the NUT, recognising the critical role trade unions can play in building united struggle against attempts to divide-and-rule, and promising to publicise their struggle and provide concrete support.

There are many concrete steps we can all take to make that solidarity a reality, including protest letters and rallies but also, and urgently, providing financial support too. 

Around 800 EĞITIM-SEN members are suddenly faced with no income to support themselves and their families. Kamuran explained that the Union needs to raise about 2000 TL a month for each dismissed member. The Congress would be asked to support an increase in subs from 17 to 25 TL a month - nearly a 50% increase.

However, we can't allow our teacher colleagues in Turkey to shoulder this burden alone. I hope that national unions, local associations and individual colleagues will respond to the international appeal that has been launched through Education International and the ETUCE.

The appeal letter sent out by Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary asks affiliates to:
1.      Send protest letters to the Turkish government, Turkish embassy in your country and your country’s embassy in Turkey in order to demonstrate that the international education community has not turned a blind eye to the Turkish authorities’ biased, undemocratic and discriminatory actions, and will continue to monitor the situation in the country.
2.      Organise demonstrations in front of the Embassy of Turkey in your country to raise awareness and promote trade union and human rights.
3.      Urge your Government to make all necessary efforts to put an end to endless arbitrary dismissals, investigations and arrests of Turkish education staff, and to recall that the Turkish government has committed itself to promoting freedom of expression, free speech and basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
4.      Demonstrate financial solidarity with EĞITIM-SEN by making a contribution to the EI Solidarity Fund:   
IBAN: BE05 3101 0061 7075
Please indicate “UAA Egitim Sen” in communication.
Your contribution will ensure that legal assistance to Turkish education personnel in need can be provided sustainably via EĞITIM-SEN.

I will be reporting back to the National Union from my visit and to ask that we appeal for financial donations from across the NUT - and other TUC affiliates - to send to the EI so that they can be sent on to Egitim Sen for assistance as indicated above.
Let's build that real international solidarity !

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