EU policies are starting to force Turkey to develop climate strategies, but green and socially responsible industrial policies are not yet emerging, and a lack of social dialogue means that workers and their unions are not best placed to shape the transition.
On 12-13 October, IndustriALL Global Union, industriAll Europe, together with representatives from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Turkey office, met with trade union leaders and experts from Turkey to discuss the challenges and opportunities for a Just Transition in key industrial sectors and the ingredients for a socially responsible industrial policy that could help manage the transition of industries and workers.
The workshop was organised in cooperation with the Turkey office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung as a follow-up to our first workshop in October 2022, where trade unions discussed the basic concepts of a Just Transition in the Turkish context.
The energy and industrial transition in Turkey is taking place in a complex geopolitical and economic situation, which poses major challenges but also opportunities. In 2022, Turkey ratified the Paris Agreement and committed to a net zero target by 2053. However, a concrete strategy and policy framework to achieve this target is still largely missing. Situated between different economic and geopolitical powers, Turkey is in a very sensitive economic and political position with implications for policy decisions. The entry into force of the Carbon Boarder Adjustment Mechanism will have an impact on Turkish companies oriented towards the EU export market. In response to the CBAM, the Turkish government is preparing a climate change bill, including an emissions trading scheme, which will require Turkish industry to adapt.
"Turkey is in a very unique position in terms of investment, climate change and digitalisation. You have all the ingredients for a Just Transition process in the country's industrial sectors," said Kan Matsuzaki, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.
The opportunities for Turkish trade unions to shape and manage change are limited in a country that is a long way from aligning their rights with ILO Conventions. The ITUC's 2023 Global Rights Index has again ranked Turkey as one of the 10 worst countries for trade unions, highlighting the repression of strikes, arrests of trade unionists and systematic union busting. The conditions for trade union involvement in anticipating change and developing a just transition strategy in Turkey couldn't be more challenging, as was clear from the workshop discussions, where participants were unanimous in criticising the lack of social dialogue in the country. EU legislation on human rights due diligence, which is currently being developed, will need to evolve into an effective tool for the trade union movement to strengthen trade union rights in Turkey.
In addition, the economic situation has eroded household incomes and purchasing power of Turkish workers. In the context of persistently high inflation, trade unions have in recent months fought for and negotiated collective agreements to adjust wages in line with inflation rates. However, official inflation figures are highly unreliable and unions are very concerned that wage agreements will only have a buffer effect on real household incomes.
Jude Kirton-Darling, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe, asked: "How do we make sure that trade unions are at the table?
"The climate challenge is huge for a major economic player such as Turkey. The country lacks a coherent industrial strategy and commitment for a Just Transition. It is difficult for trade unions to anticipate change without a clear and meaningful commitment from the government to strengthen labour rights. But we have no choice. The only way forward for workers and the planet is through the development of socially responsible industrial policies and social dialogue. We stand with our Turkish affiliates to ensure they have a seat at the table"