“WHAT WORKERS LOST DURING THE AKP ERA AND THE PRESIDENTIAL REGIME”
Statement by Arzu Çerkezoğlu on behalf of the DISK Executive Board at the press conference held at our Headquarters on Monday, 8 May 2023, where we shared the report prepared by DİSK-AR titled “What Workers Lost in the AKP Era and the Presidential Regime”
As workers, labourers, those who produce all the values and beauties of this country, we are in an important process regarding our food, work and future.
We are here today to draw up a balance sheet of the last 21 years in terms of labour. We are here to share with you the headlines of the report “What Workers Lost in the AKP Era and the Presidential Regime” prepared by DİSK-AR by making use of official data.
We have sent you the full version of the report and we will send it to you. Before we share with you the summary of this period in terms of the working class, let us say at the beginning what we will say at the end.
The summary of this period, which is dominated by the mentality that runs the country like a company, is the devaluation and precarisation of labour. The wheels of this order are based on taking from the worker and giving to the capital, taking from the low-income and giving to the rich. Especially with the presidential regime, these wheels of order have started to operate even more ruthlessly.
The summary findings of our report indisputably reveal this fact.
- LABOUR LOST AND CAPITAL WON DURING THE AKP ERA!
Under the AKP and the presidential regime, distributional relations have worsened. While the share of labour in national income was 35.3 percent before the presidential regime, it decreased to 25.2 percent in 2022. On the other hand, the share of capital in national income increased from 48 per cent before the presidential regime to 56.7 per cent in 2022.
- MINIMUM WAGE HAS BECOME THE AVERAGE WAGE DURING THE AKP PERIOD!
In 2005, the minimum wage was 46 per cent of the average wage, while in 2020 it rose to 60 per cent. Turkey has become a country of minimum wage earners.
Women have become more likely to work for minimum wage. In 2006, the average monthly wage and salary income of women was 2 times the minimum wage. In 2020, women’s average wages and salaries fell to 1.5 times the minimum wage.
PRODUCTIVITY INCREASED, WAGES DECREASED UNDER THE AKP!
Yes, we worked, we produced, Turkey grew, the government boasted, but we did not get our rights. While workers worked more and produced more during the AKP period, their wages declined. Since 2009, productivity has increased by 60 points while the real unit wage has decreased by 8 points.
- INFLATION CLIMBED UNDER AKP!
While there was a decline in inflation in the early years of the AKP, inflation climbed rapidly, especially after the presidential regime. Inflation, which was 29.7 per cent in December 2002, when the AKP came to power, reached 43.6 per cent in April 2023, even with TÜİK’s unconvincing figures.
- MORE TAXES WERE TAKEN FROM WORKERS DURING THE AKP PERIOD!
Under AKP rule, the tax burden twisted the back of the worker. While capital was constantly granted tax amnesties and privileges, workers were robbed slice by slice through tax brackets. If the first tax bracket, which was 2,500 TL in 2000, had been increased according to the revaluation rate, the first tax bracket should have been 182 thousand 109 TL in 2023. However, in 2023, the first tax bracket was applied as 70 thousand TL. Thus, in this period, workers started to pay taxes from the upper tax bracket as if they had become richer.
Another tax burden on workers is indirect taxes on consumption. While the ratio of indirect taxes in total tax revenue was 48 per cent in 1990 and 59 per cent in 2000, it reached 64 per cent in 2022. Direct taxes on earnings, which were 52 per cent in 1990 and 41 per cent in 2000, declined to 33 per cent. During the AKP period, workers were crushed under the tax burden with high income taxes on the one hand and consumption taxes on the other.
AKP WEAKENED TRADE UNION RIGHTS!
After 21 years of AKP rule, the official unionisation rate is around 14 percent, the de facto unionisation rate is 12.4 percent and collective bargaining coverage is around 8.1 percent. Collective bargaining coverage in the private sector is 4.7 per cent. In the private sector, 95.3 per cent of workers lack union protection.
- THE RIGHT TO STRIKE WAS ACTUALLY DESTROYED DURING THE AKP ERA!
A mentality that prides itself on banning strikes has virtually destroyed our right to strike. The number of workers participating in strikes has fallen to the lowest level since 1963. AKP governments expanded the scope of strike postponements (bans). During the AKP period, 20 strike postponement decrees were issued and more than 195 thousand workers were banned from striking. In contrast, only 90 thousand workers were able to go on strike during the 21-year AKP period.
- PENSIONERS WERE CONDEMNED TO HUNGER AND POVERTY DURING THE AKP PERIOD!
AKP increased the retirement age and the number of premium days. It created inequalities among pensioners. The pension update coefficient, pension attachment rates and the lower limit of pensions were reduced. Monthly increases were limited to the official inflation rate. While the lower limit of SSK pensions was 70 per cent before 1999, the Law No. 5510 reduced the limits of pensions to 35-40 per cent. In 2002, when the minimum wage was 184 TL, the lowest labour pension was 257 TL. While the lowest pension was 40 per cent above the minimum wage in 2002, it fell below the minimum wage in April 2023.
Due to the decrease in pensions, 4 million 81 thousand pensioners are either employed or looking for a job. The rate of pensioners working or looking for a job, which was 37 per cent in 2002, increased to 45 per cent in 2021.
- UNEMPLOYMENT INCREASED UNDER AKP!
The narrow-defined unemployment rate, which hovered around 8 percent on average in the pre-AKP period, rose to 11 percent in the AKP years. On the other hand, broad-defined unemployment also increased. In the 3rd quarter of 2002, narrow-defined unemployment rate was 9.6 percent and broad-defined unemployment rate was 15.3 percent. In 2022, the narrow-defined unemployment rate rose to 10.2 percent and the broad-defined unemployment rate to 20.8 percent.
During the AKP period, women’s unemployment reached a much more serious level. Especially after the presidential regime, broad-defined female unemployment increased rapidly. The broad-defined female unemployment rate, which was 22.5 percent in 2018, became 28.4 percent in 2022.
- UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FUND TURNED INTO AN EMPLOYER FUND!
Under the AKP government, which has been more unsuccessful in combating unemployment than previous governments, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (ISF) has turned into an employer support fund. In 2002, 82.2 per cent of the ISF resources were paid to the unemployed. In 2022, on the other hand, payments to workers accounted for only 22.1 percent of the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s expenditures, while 76.1 percent was transferred to capital. This situation contradicts the founding purpose of the ISF and the principle of social state.
- WORK MURDERS DIDN’T STOP!
Between 2003 and 2021, according to official data, the number of workers who died as a result of reported work accidents is 23,958 in total, with an annual average of 1,261. The number and frequency of deaths as a result of work accidents or occupational diseases finalised as a result of lawsuits and inspector investigations are much higher. In the period between 2006 and 2021, the number of deaths as a result of occupational accidents or occupational diseases reported is 22 thousand 305, while the number of deaths as a result of occupational accidents or occupational diseases is 42 thousand 927. Despite technological developments, occupational homicides have not decreased, on the contrary, workers have been worked to death in the accumulation model based on “forced production”.
- AKP PRIVATISED 90 PERCENT OF THE REPUBLIC’S PUBLIC WEALTH!
AKP governments have a large share in the liquidation of the public sector and privatisation. Approximately 90 percent of the total privatisation was carried out during the AKP governments. Approximately 90 percent of the public savings of the Republican period were privatised by the AKP governments for 63.8 billion dollars. The savings of the first century of the Republic have been squandered in 21 years.
- UNDER THE AKP PERIOD, EMPLOYMENT TERMINATION INDEMNITY HAS DECREASED!
Although the usurpation of severance pay was never off the agenda during the AKP rule, these attempts were always prevented by workers’ struggles. However, the severance pay ceiling, which was 4.8 times the minimum wage in 2002, was reduced to 2 times the minimum wage by 2023. The AKP has also eroded severance pay.
- RIGHT TO WORK DESTROYED BY THE STATE OF EMERGENCY!
The heaviest balance sheet of the State of Emergency period was unjust and unlawful dismissals. Journalists, MPs and mayors were arrested. During the two-year SoE period, the biggest purge of public officials in the history of the Republic of Turkey took place and 135 thousand public officials were dismissed. The dismissals and purges in the public sector were so comprehensive that they could not be compared to the 12 September period. The State of Emergency also abolished the right of those dismissed by the State of Emergency to apply to the judiciary and to a fair trial, and the State of Emergency Procedures Review Commission, an administrative board, was established for objections to the decree-laws. The dismissed Peace Academics were not reinstated despite the Constitutional Court and judicial decisions. Rights, law and justice were trampled on.
- AKP FAILED IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19!
The AKP government has failed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had devastating social and economic consequences for wage earners. It has not taken effective measures to protect citizens from the effects of Covid-19 and has not implemented strong social policy measures. While rich countries allocated 17.3 per cent of their national income to their citizens to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, in Turkey only 2.7 per cent of national income was allocated for additional spending and income support.
These are our summary findings. When our report titled “What Have Workers Lost in the AKP Era and the Presidential Regime?” is analysed in detail, it will be seen more clearly that the policies implemented for 21 years and the presidential regime are harmful to workers.
Every election period, political parties make promises to the whole society, especially to those of us who live on labour income, which constitutes three quarters of the population. Workers make decisions based on these promises. For labour, the damage caused by the AKP period and especially the presidential regime is obvious.
However, what is more important than anything else is the fact that during the AKP years, all mechanisms by which workers can protect and defend their rights and laws have been eliminated step by step. Unionisation has been put under great pressure, banning strikes has been made an occasion for pride, even the simplest right to assembly and demonstration marches has been considerably narrowed, workers’ rights cannot be sought in the palaces of justice, social dialogue mechanisms have been completely abolished, all legal and constitutional institutions from the Economic Social Council to the Triple Advisory Board have not actually operated. In short, all the democratic mechanisms that the working class can use to protect its rights have been severely damaged. All of the developments in favour of capital and to the detriment of workers, which we set out in detail in our report, have been achieved through the destruction of democracy. It has been seen once again that “democracy is the bread of the worker”.
For this reason, the decision we will make in the 14 May elections does not consist of evaluating the promises, which President will govern our country, which party or parties will come to power. For us, this ballot box is a ballot box where we will unite without division and disintegration in order to change the authoritarian presidential system, which is harmful to workers, severely destroys justice and democracy, and leaves millions of people under debris by managing the country like a company.
As we have previously stated in the concluding text of our Presidents’ Assembly, “The truth we will tell from workplace to workplace, square to square, street to street until 14 May and the call we will make is clear: The presidential order is harmful to the worker, harmful to the people, harmful to the country and for this reason, it must be changed with the will of our people, especially the working class; it will be changed!”
TO ACCESS THE FULL REPORT: