BİMEKS, one of the largest chains of stores for consumer electronics in Turkey, has closed many of its stores, citing the economic crisis. Then the company launched a dismissal procedure, leaving hundreds of workers without jobs. The workers of the chain were fired without being able to receive any compensation. The 1,500 workers have launched various protests demanding payment of all tens of thousands of Turkish lira due.
“They have not applied for insolvency proceedings. By disbanding the board, they tried to portray it as a bankrupt company. They have not yet applied to the insolvency procedure. We believe that they expect the statute of limitations for workers to file claims to expire.” said one of the protesting workers.
After the company’s board of directors was disbanded in 2018, the owners tried to show it as “bankrupt”. In turn, the employees of the company who have suffered from the actions of the management began to organize through social networks and later proceeded to hold protests. BİMEKS is owned by Murat Akgiray, and its partners are his brother Vedat Akgiray and his son Ahmet Akgiray. For weeks, workers of the company, fighting for their rights, have been protesting in front of the Bosphorus University (Boğaziçi Üniversitesi) in Istanbul, where Vedat Akgiray is a finance professor. Every protest of workers, in which students from the Bosphorus University also took part, was brutally attacked by the police, and almost all the participants in the protests were detained and taken to the police department.
Emine Soysal is one of the company’s 1,500 workers fighting for their rights. She is among the protesters in front of Bosphorus University. Soysal says they have not been paid by the company since 2016, and she and many of her colleagues have been forced to take out loans to be able to come to work.
Soysal continues the story with the words: “My sister and I are the only persons who work at home. At that time (2016), my sister had quit her job. We lived in a rented apartment. Rents, electricity, water, and at one point debts piled up. Can you imagine you’re working, but not receiving a salary, and at the same time your expenses continue to rise, but you have no income? We were told that we were all equal in this crisis. They assured us that with God’s help we would go through this difficult time as well, requiring us to be patient.”
Emine Soysal shared that in 2016 she got engaged and prepared for a wedding, continuing her story as follows: “I intended to take my compensation for early termination of the contract and to break off relations with the company. Because that was my natural right. I would partially cover my wedding expenses with the three salaries I would receive in a pile. After not receiving my salary for 3 months, I got married, then submitted my documents to leave the company both through a notary and on my own, at the company’s headquarters, in December 2016 I terminated my employment contract with them.
From 2016 until now, I have repeatedly tried to receive my salaries and compensation through visits to the company’s headquarters. Each time I was told that the amounts would be paid into my bank account. The Akgiray family (the owners of the company) did not meet with me but had instructed human resources staff to repeat these learned phrases. Every time I went to the central office and wanted to meet with them, I was told that they were outside the city. As I was in a difficult financial situation, I did not have the necessary money to file a lawsuit because the lawyer’s fee for filing the case was too expensive for me. And money was needed for the whole period of the case. “
“We didn’t know we were deceived”
Emine Soysal says that there are her colleagues who have filed lawsuits against the company and won them, she emphasizes that despite the court decisions in favor of the workers, they have not yet received the amounts due, adding:
“Although they have won the cases, none of them can take what is due to him by law. Because one after another, the company emptied the goods from its stores. My colleagues are honest and respectable people, so they thought that they would eventually get something when the company’s financial situation stabilized. They waited for a while for the situation of the company to improve, but they did not know that in fact, we were all victims of a huge fraud and theft. Not only that but the head of the company, Murat Akgiray, told my colleagues who managed to meet with him that he had receivables from BİMEKS, which is ridiculous. “
“Under the guise of socially engaged employers, they robbed the rights of people with disabilities”
Since BİMEKS is a joint-stock company, the ways for judicial resolution of the case are practically closed. In this situation, the workers do not have the right by law to file a claim to the personal property of the shareholders in the company. Emine Soysal continues her story: “They are such “good” professionals that they know all the loopholes in the law and skillfully take advantage of them. Not only that but under the guise of a project for a socially engaged employer, they robed the rights of our colleagues with Down syndrome who were forced to work in the stores. We are fighting for our rights, and we are trying to make these issues public. “
“We are right, and we are determined to do everything.”
Emine Soysal says that she and her colleagues will continue to protest in front of Bosphorus University because Vedat Akgiray, one of the shareholders in BİMEKS, whom they call a thief, is a university lecturer and therefore they see the university as an institution that could solve the problem.
“We have filed a criminal complaint against them”
Soysal also said that a few weeks ago, she and her colleagues filed a criminal complaint against brothers Murat and Vedat Akgiray, who owns the company, in the court in Istanbul. She also called on the school’s management to sever all ties with Vedat Akgiray, perhaps preventing the loss of trust and prestige that is seriously damaging the university. The female worker also said they wanted the university’s management to mediate in the negotiations between the workers and Vedat Akgiray. Since the beginning of this month, workers have tried several times to set up a tent camp in front of the entrance to the campus of the Bosphorus University, but they have been attacked by police with extreme brutality and have so far failed to set up a protest tent camp.
Video showing one of the police attacks against the BIMEKS workers.