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Turkey Auto Workers Strike at Ford Factory

May 20, 2015
The factories of Renault and Fiat in Turkey have been ground to a halt in the past few days by a strike for higher pay, and have also been joined by several auto parts manufacturers.

ANKARA, Turkey - One of the biggest strikes in the Turkish automobile sector in recent times showed no sign of letting up Wednesday, with Ford (IW 500/6) the latest producer to be hit.

The factories of Renault (IW 1000/74) and Fiat (IW 1000/30)  in Turkey have been ground to a halt in the past few days by a strike for higher pay and have also been joined by several auto parts manufacturers.

Two factories in the western Kocaeli region operated by Ford Otosan -- a long-standing joint venture between the U.S. car giant and Turkish industrial conglomerate Koc Holding -- were the latest to halt production on Wednesday.

The Dogan news agency said that workers had downed tools in solidarity with their counterparts at Fiat and Renault, who are based in the nearby city of Bursa, the hub of Turkey's flourishing car industry.

Reports said that 300 employees of Ford protested at the operation's base in Golcuk in the Kocaeli region, chanting slogans against management and watched by a heavy police presence.

Stoppage Caused by Parts Shortage, Ford Otosan Says

However, Ford Otosan denied that was the case, saying the temporary stoppage was due to a lack of parts caused by the strikes at suppliers.

With the strikes now entering a seventh day, concerns are growing over the threat to the Turkish economy from the labor disputes in a sector that has been an engine of growth in recent years.

The strikes come just three weeks ahead of legislative elections on June 7 and as the economy starts to show signs of weakness after years of impressive growth under premier-turned-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who oversees the economy, said the timing of the strikes was significant but expressed hope the situation would be resolved.

"I think that the problem will be solved in the next days," he told the Haberturk channel, saying "reforms" in the sector could be needed.

The strike wave began last Thursday in Turkey's biggest car plant, the Oyak Renault factory, a joint venture between Renault and the Oyak army pension fund located in Bursa.

Hundreds of employees of Tofas -- a joint venture between Fiat and Koc Holding -- followed suit, as did hundreds of workers from local parts manufacturers.

The strikers have been asking for wage increases in line with those seen at other industrial firms in Bursa, where one factory is said to have offered workers a rise of as much as 60%.

Car production in Turkey has grown multifold since Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, helping fuel a decade-long economic boom.

According to the Paris-based International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), Turkey produced 1.170 million cars and commercial vehicles in 2014, up from 346,565 in 2002. 

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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