Occupational accidents have been recently occupying the agenda of our country. The reasons of them are usually unwariness, unconsciousness, lack of inspection and lack of education. The government, employers and employees, they all play important roles in order to minimize those accidents and the losses arising there from.

When it comes to occupational safety, employees feel much more comfortable in drawing the attention to any kind of deficiency in the workplace, especially, if they are members of a union. In unionised workplaces, occupational safety measures are taken more easily, since the unionised employees are much more aware of their rights. Unions generate strong inspection mechanisms in order to establish occupational health and safety measures and have them applied in the relevant workplaces. Hence, the unionisation rates significantly affect the rate of occupational accidents. It is a fact that the countries with very low rates of occupational accidents are the ones with very high rates of unionisation. It should also be noted that unions set a good example for non-governmental organizations, which are sine qua non for democracies.

In Turkey, the Law on Unions and Collective Labour Agreements1 ("Law") provides for regulations regarding the unionisation and union activities at workplaces. In October of this year, the Turkish Constitutional Court decided to annual and suspend the execution of certain provisions of that Law, which it deemed to be violating certain union rights.

What does the Constitutional Court Decision Say?

The annulled phrase is the one "excluding termination" under Paragraph 4 of Article 25 of the Law, providing for the payment of union compensation by the employers, in case they act against the provisions of Law which protected the freedom of union membership, is annulled. Therefore, upon entry of the change in Law, employers shall pay compensations in case they terminate employment agreements of the employees due to labour union activities.

Furthermore, Paragraph 6 of Article 60 of the Law was annulled as well: the annulled provision provided that lock-out decision can be applied in all parts of the workplace even if the strike decision has been taken for one part of the workplace. Also the strike decision was taken regarding the dispute related to collective agreements. With the amendment of the Law, a lock-out decision will only be applied to the part of workplace that has taken the strike decision.

The provisions of the law which excluded certain service fields, namely "banking" and "at public transport", have also been amended to annul such exclusions on the basis of conflict with the Turkish Constitution. The amendment of the law will enter into force at the time of its publication in the Official Gazette.

As a Result

Steps taken for the unionisation play an important role in the advanced democracies and right provide occupational safety and prevent occupational accidents in the workplaces. The above summarized decision of the Constitutional Court is significant for the labour peace and democracy, considering the unfortunate number of occupational accidents.

1 "Law on Unions and Collective Labour Agreements; dated October 18, 2012 and numbered 6356 and published in the Official Gazette dated November 7, 2012 and numbered 28460."

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