Turkey and the garment industry

In the last two decades Turkey has become one of the world’s top ten clothing exporters. Turkey is the second largest supplier of clothing, after China, and the top textile supplier to Europe- 73% of Turkeys clothing is exported To Europe. According to the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) clothing and textile exports represent 40% of all Turkey's exports. Those working in the clothing and textile sectors make up 35% of the country's industrial workers. The Clean Clothes Campaign estimates that there may be as many as three million workers employed in 44,000 workplaces. However many workers are hired and fired according to when factories receive orders and are obliged to work excessive hours to meet deadlines.

The ICFTUs annual report on trade union violations found that Turkey was particularly harsh in their suppression of trade union rights . In the same report the The Turkey country section of the same report found:

“The government has been slow to bring its legislation on workers' and trade union rights into line with international standards. The changes are in draft form only, in contrast to other areas of law that have been changed with a view to Turkey's accession to the European Union….

The law recognises freedom of association…. and the right to form a trade union, but there are limitations. The percentage of the labour force covered by collective agreements still remains extremely low, owing to the threshold for collective bargaining set by the law.”

Public sector unions have been particularly targeted by the Turkish government in recent years. Of direct relevance to organising in the textile and garment industry is the requirement that workers are registered to be eligible to join a union. Reports (CCC and others) have found that much of the garment industry in Turkey is unregistered.

A 2003 Report by SOMO found:

“Subcontracting to other countries, particularly to Bulgaria, where Turkey is the main investor in the country's garment industry, is also not uncommon. However, because most production takes place in unregistered workplaces - as part of the so-called informal economy - reliable detailed data on the structure and characteristics of the industry is difficult to come by.”

Turkey, post the MFA phase out, has seen a reduction in the number of small companies, with some being forced to close down. This has lead to a reduction in the workforce and to increased pressure on and flexibilisation of the remaining workforce.

There has also been movement of investment within the country, with the support of the state to areas with less favourable working conditions and increased tax free advantages. At the same time TNCs are moving production of their goods outside of Turkey and to North Africa (for example Egypt).


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