Tüpraş workers occupy Aliağa refinery in Turkey to oppose layoffs

Workers at the at the Aliağa, Izmir refinery of Turkey’s largest enterprise, Tüpraş, have occupied the plant to oppose mananagement’s layoff plans since Saturday. While all shifts have joined the action, production is continuing. Workers staged a mass protest in front of the refinery on Monday morning.

Tüpraş refinery workers at Aliağa protest planned layoffs, May 30, 2022. [Credit: @ @pib_petrokimya on Twitter]

In the petrochemical sector, where the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government imposed a strike ban in 2012, workers mobilized after Petrol-İş union officials approved the layoffs. Tüpraş, owned by Koç Holding, one of Turkey’s largest conglomerates, had recently informed the union that 88 workers would be laid off from the Kırıkkale, Batman, Kocaeli and Aliağa refineries, which employ around 4,000 workers. Twenty-seven were to be laid off from the Aliağa refinery.

Petrol-İş headquarters informed union locals of the names of the workers to be dismissed and told them to restrain action by the workers against the layoffs.

On May 23, a Tüpraş worker in Aliağa told the daily Evrensel: “We cannot say that we will fight with the union behind us in processes such as dismissal or punishment by the disciplinary board. Union headquarters has the attitude of let them do it, and the local branch cannot prevent these processes. Tüpraş workers are forced by their union to surrender to the company’s pressures.”

The union’s Aliağa local, which kept silent until the struggle broke out, is working to end the wildcat action and prevent a stoppage in production. On Monday morning, Petrol-İş Aliağa Branch President Hasan Toptan’s said: “Our protests, which have been going on inside the refinery for two days, will continue in front of the gate as of today, and if necessary in Aliağa Square … ”

Before the workers mobilized on Saturday, branch officials met with company managers, police, and the district governor’s office, but did not call for any action. These meetings reflect concern about the impact of a mass struggle by workers at this strategically vital enterprise.

After the workers’ action began, Toptan blatantly said that “they will not negotiate with the employer over 27 people,” while Branch Vice President Gökhan Karataş said: “We said that let’s follow our 27 friends on the list until January, if they continue to work under the conditions that you bring and present to us with excuses, if they are stealing, we will not stand behind them, but we could not come to a reconciliation point.” This is, in effect, an admission that the union officials asked for time until January because they could not appease the workers.

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