The Turkish bureau of Russian state-owned news agency and radio broadcast service Sputnik has fired 24 journalists who joined a labor union and decided to go on strike, the Gazete Duvar news website reported.
The 24 journalists, who have recently become members of the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS), were fired on the pretext of the downsizing the newsroom due to financial problems.
Sputnik Turkish employees decided to go on strike last month when collective bargaining talks between the media organization and the TGS broke down.
TGS members posted notices on the walls of the Sputnik Turkish offices in Ankara and İstanbul indicating the pending strike.
On Tuesday TGS members held a demonstration in front of the Sputnik Turkish offices in İstanbul protesting the media organization’s decision to fire the journalists. Members from some left-wing labor unions and opposition parties were also in the area to support the protestors.
TGS President Gökhan Durmuş said in a press statement during the protest that although TGS reminded Sputnik to respect its employees’ right to strike, which is guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution, the media organization has ignored its warning, pressured its employees to resign and removed the strike notices on the walls of its offices in İstanbul and Ankara.
Durmuş said although Sputnik can pay hundreds of thousands of lira of rent for its offices, it talks about economic constraints when it is asked to raise the salaries of its employees.
“Nobody should try to deceive us. Sputnik has not fired our 24 members for financial reasons but because they are members of our union,” said Durmuş, accusing Sputnik Turkish executives of violating the Turkish Constitution and the 118th Article of the Turkish Penal Code, which concerns the violation of one’s right to join a trade union.
The right to strike is guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution, with Article 54 stating that “workers have the right to strike in the event of a labor dispute arising during negotiations for the conclusion of a collective agreement,” but labor unions say it exists only on paper since workers face the risk of being fired when they go on strike.
Aug. 17 has been set as the date for the beginning of the strike.
Durmuş accused Sputnik Turkish of disrespecting Turkish law by firing 24 employees after they decided to go on strike.
“We want to see the enforcement of laws in the country against this recklessness,” he said.
Journalists, who are frequently subjected to physical attacks and legal harassment due to their profession in Turkey, are also hard-hit by an economic crisis in the country amid skyrocketing inflation and the continuous depreciation of the Turkish lira.
Turkey’s annual inflation stood at 47.83 percent in July, according to official data, although a separate study released by independent economists from the Inflation Research Group (ENAG) who question the official data put the July figure at 122.88 percent, up from 108.6 percent in June.
The Turkish lira has lost around 30 percent of its value since late May.