An interview with female worker Melike Şahin, who has been struggling for 309 days to return to her job at the municipal administration in Istanbul’s Ataşehir district(southeast part of the city).
Gerçek News Agency: Before we begin, we would like to congratulate you on your victory which you have achieved recently through your struggle. At the beginning of 2018, you were among the people who were fired, after a decree issued during the then-current state of emergency. Then you were also among the initiators of the protests against these dismissals, as a result of the protests you returned to your work. On October 4, 2019, you have fired once again. What was the reason for which you were fired?
Melike Şahin: Hello, thank you. Yes, in 2018 I was fired after a decree issued during the state of emergency, as a result of my protest and struggle, I returned to my workplace. Later, the development of trade union activity began in the municipal administration of the Ataşehir district. My colleagues and I became members of the Public Services Employees Union of Turkey (Genel-İŞ), which is part of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları Konfederasyonu-DISK). After the union was approved to represent us before the employer, I was chosen to represent all the union members in my workplace. My employment contract was terminated under code 04 of the Social Security Code of Turkey, which states: “termination of an open-ended employment contract by the decision of the employer-based on ‘fair reasons’.” But the real reason for the end of my employment contract is my activity as a trade union representative. The real reason for my dismissal was that I wanted our working conditions to be decent for a human being, both economically and socially, and I did not limit myself only to speaking, but also I take actions in this regard.
Gerçek News Agency: How did you decide to start your resistance? Couldn’t you have sought your rights in other ways?
Melike Şahin: Only a year ago, I was completely arbitrarily fired under a decree-law. While this arbitrariness was still going on, this time they tried to take away my constitutional right – the right to free trade union association, so I decided to use my right to resist. Driven by the awareness that tomorrow at another job place, under different working conditions, I may face the same injustices again, instead of accepting and giving in, I decided to resist. I filed a lawsuit to be restored to my workplace, so my protest developed in parallel with the development of the court case. Of course, all this is a matter of choice, I could take my labor rights such as my union unemployment compensation, severance pay and my other rights, and start working elsewhere, I chose to take the path of struggle for rights.
Gerçek News Agency: What difficulties did you face during the protest?
Melike Şahin: When you decide to start struggling, with the strength you take from your rightness, you gain the strength to overcome many difficulties, you are filled with the will to resist. During the seven months of the protest, what bothered me the most was the cold weather. We did not have the opportunity to set up a tent, because the space in front of the municipal administration building was very open and difficult. But as the protest and resistance continued, we were able to overcome these difficulties to a large extent.
Gerçek News Agency: Did you receive support from the union you are a member of?
Melike Şahin: I started my protest with the support of the union, for 70 days, the person in charge of the Anatolian (Asian) part of Istanbul, 1 section of Genel-İŞ, which is part of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), supported my protest, as members and leaders of the section were with me at the site of my protest. Later, after pressure from my employer, the central leadership of Genel-İŞ and the DİSK, fearing that they will lose their positions in the trade union, the leaders of the local section of my union left the protest site and withdrew their support for my resistance.
It has been proved once again in practice that the reformist trade unionists will not struggle until the end. Their sole purpose is to strengthen their positions and to enrich themselves from the membership fees of the workers, and to continue their comfortable and luxurious life in the capitalist status quo.
Gerçek News Agency: What were your demands?
Melike Şahin: My demand was to be reinstated in my job, which was taken away from me completely unfairly and illegally. I had no other demands besides.
Gerçek News Agency: You won the victory. Was your demand fully granted?
Melike Şahin: My demand was granted, and I retained all my worker rights, such as the right to severance pay, compensations, etc.
Gerçek News Agency: Based on the experience you gained during these two protests, what would you like to say to all workers and civil servants whose rights have been violated?
Melike Şahin: I am not the first example of a female worker being fired unfairly and her rights being robbed. I probably won’t be the last one. Looking at the history of workers’ struggles and the struggles for rights and freedoms, we see that those who win are only those who fight. Whatever the conditions are, we must struggle without despair and despondency, and without giving up. Without accepting injustices, even if we are alone and there is no one else to support us, we must not remain silent. And without this we are not left alone in our struggle, the workers who have previously fought and won victories will no doubt support you, the same goes for the revolutionaries, they are always next to those who struggle. To struggle without fear, without backing down from your positions, sooner or later brings you the victory.
Source: Gerçek News Agency; www.gercekhaberajansi.org