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4 Sep 2019

Turkey: Unions accuse Cargill of union busting & call for reinstatement of dismissed workers, demand legal reform; Includes company response

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In August 2018, 14 members of the union Tekgida-İş were dismissed from their jobs at a Cargill corn-milling factory in Bursa-Orhangazi, Turkey. The dismissals followed Tekgida-İş' application to the Turkish Labour Ministry for bargaining unit status and a warning from management that company rules would change unfavourably for employees if the union received formal bargaining status. Since then, the affected union members have been protesting their dismissal.

Cargill responded to these allegations, in a statement denying that union membership was taken into consideration in selecting workers for dismissal. The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) - of which Tekgida-İş is an affiliate - disputes Cargill's explanation. Both Cargill's statement and the IUF letter are linked below.

In July 2019, a court ruling in Turkey determined that the affected workers were dismissed as a consequence of their union activities, which Cargill appealed. Bursa’s district court handed down final rulings in December 2019 and February 2020 stating that eight of the workers were dismissed solely for their union activity and four were unfairly dismissed, with no economic justification for their dismissals (two workers did not contest their dismissals). The Court ordered Cargill to reinstate workers or pay additional severances, the company opted for the latter. 

In March 2020, IUF and Tekgida-İş filed a OECD Specific Instance with the US NCP. The NCP found that the parties were unable to bridge their differences over the mediation agenda, bringing the Specific Instance to a close and encouraging dialogue between the parties. 

IUF has criticised Cargill’s decision to recruit new employees at the plant whilst ignoring calls for the unfairly dismissed workers to be reinstated. Cargill has explained its actions on economic grounds, adding that the dismissed workers were free to apply for the new roles but did not. 

In August 2020, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Cargill to respond, its response is included below. 

In July 2021, IUF filed a complaint with the ILO against the Turkish government over failures to protect workers’ freedom of association. They assert that loopholes in national law favour payment of compensation over rehiring of workers, as redressal, in cases of union-busting.

Company Responses

Cargill View Response