Hey Textile Workers on strike (Gezi Park, June 2013)

Hey Textile Workers on strike (Gezi Park, June 2013)


Voices: Tayyip (Erdogan) resign! Resisting for 17 months. The Hey Textile Workers Resistance Tent. My name is Birol Kücükoglu. We’ve been on the streets for 485 days with no salary. My name is Gülnaz. I started my job on 3rd September, 2001 and on the 25th June, 2011 I had to give up my job. I worked in this factory for 5 years in the cantine, and another 5 years in quality control. Overall I’ve worked there for 10 years and after 10 years they told us we have to downsize. So I was fired. Hey Textiles is in Bagcilar, Günesli. 70% of our production there was for the brand Esprit. And because there’s no Esprit outlets in Turkey we couldn’t protest. The Esprit headquarters is in Germany. We don’t have a union. With a union, we’d have also been able to protest. We produce for Tom Tailor, Mango, Timberland, S. Oliver and for lots of other brands. Because labour in Turkey is much cheaper. These brands know what they’re doing when they manufacture their products in such low-wage countries. And we get about 200, 250 Euros and if they would be produced in the EU, they’d have to pay approx. 1500 Euros. When I started in 2001, I got 150 (£47). In 10 years my salary has only just increased to 900 lira (approx. £280). WIth overtime perhaps 1100, 1200 (£340-£370). Working conditions during Esprit production times were such that workers had to work for 24 hours, 48 hours, 78 hours and sleep on the assembly lines. So day and night production. The bosses exerted pressure. That was bad, yes. In my first years there was lots of overtime. In one week, sometimes we didn’t go home for 3 days. There was a lot of work. Sure, we worked and we got our wage for it. But they let us work too much. -Do you have a family? Yes. I could hardly see my kids. I had to leave them home alone. In the mornings I got them ready for school and having not slept, I then went to work. And when I got home in the evenings, they were scattered around the flat sleeping. -How old were they? 6, 7 and 8. So they were small. If I hadn’t have been forced to, I wouldn’t have left my kids alone. I rented my place, we couldn’t cope any other way. So I left them alone at home. And when I’d come home in the evenings and saw my kids like that, I always had to cry. I won’t forget those days. A very difficult time. Aynur Bektas should listen to us now. Hear our voices. Realise what difficult circumstances we worked under. Our Prime Minister named Aynur Bektas as one of the 3 most successful women in Turkey. But that isn’t mentioned is that she worked 3600 workers like slaves, and then she fired them. There’s no speech about that in the press. They pretend they know nothing. And why? Because she has power. Because she’s in the Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Council Board. And with no shame, he mentions Aynur Bektas on International Women’s Day on March 8th. In actual fact he shouldn’t be mentioning her, he should be talking about our female friends here. Because they were the ones involved in production. In the last few years, after 2006, 2007, there was less overtime. They fired workers and they said they had to scale down. They sacked maybe 5-10 workers every week. From the factory’s side it was always, they have to shrink, because they’re not making profits. But those were lies from the employers side, because on the other hand, production carried on. We organised sit-down strikes in the cantine and then they said “Get back to work guys! Your money’s coming”, but it wasn’t true. They gave us three days off and when we came back they didn’t want to take us back anymore and cut us loose. Yes we’re protesting. We’re protesting in the Mango boutiques. In big shopping centres. With 300, 400 security staff, but we don’t care. I haven’t worked for a year and a half. My husband is the only earner. In construction. We can’t manage. We can’t afford to send our 2 sons to carry on their studies, although they had the marks to. I could only send one and he had to take a loan from the state under his name. And later when he has a job, he’ll pay the debt off. So my sons sit at home. At the moment there are between 15 and 20 people protesting. Most of the others have gone. They were there for 5, 6 months and then went. At the moment we’ve decided, we’ll carry on the protest until the end. Through protesting on the street, we can influence something. By going to a citizen’s organisation. We don’t trust political parties anymore. The opposition can’t do anything either. That’s why we’re on the streets. Through street protest, we want to influence something. My name is Ali Ekber Alp. I worked for Hey Textiles for 12 years and 4 months. For one and a half years we’ve been protesting as workers of this company. Because we’ve already protested for so long and my daughter is therefore also affected, she decided to come with us and to support me on the 1st May-day demonstration. That was actually forbidden. When she was with friends and acquaintances, my daughter was exposed to police violence. Someone threw a gas bomb from a short distance which broke her skull. I was influenced by my father’s resistance. Like everyone else, I had other reasons to be there, to defend my rights. That’s why I was there. The reason why I’m here [Gezi Park] is, that I wanted to be a witness how the people have come together here. There are different groups here, different ways of thinking. It’s very colourful. Some come here because of work. Some come in order to have a free life. Some come to recruit people, because of ideologies. I find that the Taksim resistance and the young people here are giving a good lesson to lead us. To the grassroots organisations. The unions. Everyone needs to get out of here and draw a lesson for themselves. I’ve never experienced such a protest, nor such a movement in Turkey in the last 44 years. This is something very pleasing. The AKP wanted to close this square to the people, to the workers so that they could build a shopping centre. And yet this square has a significance, an importance for workers. The workers have understood this and that’s why they’ve flocked here.

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