EMAR Research: Data

Working Class of Turkey – Figures on the General Framework for Unionisation


At this stage of our EMAR work on “Working Class of Turkey – Numbers and General Framework for Unionisation”, the tables, graphics and piecharts have been prepared, updated by the end of March 2016 and uploaded to the website. Click here...
These tables and graphics are covering two different periods, and virtually two separate sections of the working class due to legal divisions created by the bourgeoisie.
The first period covers the years from 1984 to 2009. In 1984 the military fascist junta in Turkey was in the process of disintegration and the first labour statistics of the period were prepared and published in accordance with the Law #2821 on Labour Unions. According to this law, there were 28 industrial branches where “workers” with the right to unions worked. The data was updated and confirmed by official bi-annual statistics showing the number workers and union members in each of the 28 industrial branches. They were to be published in the Official Gazette on every 17th January and 17th July every year. The statistics were prepared by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and published until July 2009 when the AKP government decided to change the premises of the statistics and stopped publishing them.

There is an intermediate period from 17th July 2009 to January 2013 when the Labour Statictics have not been published. Labour unions had then to refer to the last published statistics in order to be recognised by the employers to negotiate new collective agreements, or simply had to wait “like the sheep waiting to be slaughtered by their butcher”(!) until the new statistics published. This is a dark period regarding labour relations between the unions and employers and the State.

The second period began in January 2013, with the publishing of new Labour Statistics in accordance with the premises put forward by the Law #6356 on the Labour Unions and Collective Agreements (adopted on December 2012 by the National Assembly based on the AKP government proposal). With the new Law, the basic criteria of who were to be regarded (in the statistics) as “workers” in any industrial branch have changed; the number of industrial branches have been reduced from 28 to 20 due to merging and removal, and the areas covered by quite a few of them have changed, together with their place on the official list. Some old issues have thus been removed whereas some new problems have been created.

The Law #6356 have reduced the number of industrial branches to 20 by merging some of them and removing the others. There are a quite a number of arbitrariness and anti-labour union practices observed in the new order of the industrial branches. Moreover, any future researcher may find it extremely difficult to make a comparative study on the unionisation in Turkish society as the covered areas of the industrial branches and even places in the statistical list have been changed. The State stole from labour unions even the right to search for truth.

The important changes brought by the new Law #6356 on who is considered as “worker” in the statistics may have removed some issues which in the past encouraged false claims of recognition, but have instead brought up some very important new problems. We will not discuss theses issues in detail here as they will have to be taken up in another article with a wider framework.

We should however mention that the new “threshold” brought by the Law #6356 for recognition of the labour unions have recently been nullified by the Constitutional Court, which practically abolished the “threshold”. (For the detailed information please see AYM Decision No. 2015/49; 2014/17 dated 14.05.2015).This is a positive development.


Another issue concerning the labour statistics is due to the artificial legal division of labourers by the State into categories of “workers” and the “public employees (Memur)”. This two-tier structure creates two different groups of labour unions with differing rights and conditions of work.

The subject of First Domain, are those labourers who were regarde according to the Law #6356 as “workers” with the right to unions and collective agreements in the agriculture, industry and service sectors. Statistics about them are published bi-annually, every January and July, and regarded essential for the union recognition by the employers. Any worker who wants to be a member of any union must, according to the Law, apply for union membership through the Electronic State Gateway (E-Devlet Kapisi). This creates a situation whereby the State has the latest and the most intimate knowledge on any union member, unions he/she belongs to, and the finances of any labour union. That is, the State has reached a new level of absolute and unashamed control above the union movement in Turkey. Given the history of Turkish State’s relations with workers’ organisations, there is no reason why workers should trust the State.

We are publishing here the recently updated tables and graphics about the union membership in 20 industrial branches from 2013 onwards.

We will eventually publish the historical tables and graphics on the union membership for the period 1984-2009 on our website.

The second domain is where public employees who work under the specially defined status of «memur» (i.e. public servant) according to the Law #4688 where the “boss” is the central and/or local State bodies. The union membership in this domain is not confirmed, strangely enough, by the data collected by Electronic State Gateway. This is not good news for the unions of public employees as the State controls almost every aspect of a domain where the labourers do not even have the right to Collective Agreements and Strike. Apart from the formal organisational rights which seem to be in accordance with EU framework, there are serious issues to take up.

There are also the issues of definition and classification of the «Service Branches» which are numbered 11 under the Law #4688. The State tells us that the “international standards” have been used in the creation of these service branches. It is only obvious that the State has consciously created confusion in the classification of the service branches, where some “service branches” clearly overlap with some industrial branches. The creation of 11 service branches seem arbitrary and irrational.
We are publishing on our website the updated tables and graphics for the period from 2005 (when the publication of the official statistics - published once a year, every July - in 11 Service Branches in the Official Gazette have started) onwards.

A small request

We have knowingly left blank any comments from our side on the data, tables and graphics belonging to 20 industrial branches and 11 service branches, with the hope that people will come with critical views and comments on the actual data and the trends shown on the graphics.

If you have any comments please send them to bilgi@emarvakfı.org or to We will publish them here as well as our own, in order to create a better understanding of the conditions of Labour. Ismail Buyukakan