Fourteen production workers at Cargill’s starch factory in Bursa-Orhangazi were fired on April 17, 2018 while trying to organize a union. These layoffs came shortly after his IUF-affiliated union Tekgıda-İş formally applied to be a representative to bargain collectively for workers at Cargill’s 4 food plants in Turkey, after achieving what the union believed that was the legal threshold of 40% required to be a certified multi-unit bargaining representative. To deny certification as a legal representative in collective bargaining, Cargill challenged the union’s request by adding head office staff to the legal bargaining unit, causing Tekgıda-İş’s representation to drop below the 40% threshold.
The 14 layoffs in April 2018 came after previous layoffs of 7 other workers at the same factory, who had also been trying to organize a union. These 7 workers won court cases in 2015 and 2018, when the Turkish Supreme Court concluded that they had been fired in retaliation for their union activity.
In December 2019 and February 2020, the Bursa District Court issued rulings regarding 12 of the workers fired on April 17, 2018 (2 workers did not bring their dismissals to trial). The Court confirmed that 8 of them were fired solely for their union activity. The other 4, according to the Court, were unfairly fired, because there was no economic justification for firing them and Cargill had not offered them alternative work at the company. The 12 court sentences ordered the restitution.
All of these layoffs at Cargill violate fundamental ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which protect the rights to freedom of association, to organize a union and to engage in collective bargaining. ILO documentation and doctrine prescribe reinstatement as a way to redress the anti-union dismissal. Cargill has tried to justify the layoffs on purely economic grounds, stating that the factory had to downsize after the government changed the quota system for sugars made from starch. All of the layoff notices indicate that the company had searched for alternate positions at Cargill for the laid off workers, but could not find any.
But the factory continued to hire 9 new permanent production jobs since December 9, 2019.