All Municipal and Local Government Service Workers Union (Tüm-Bel-Sen) Antalya Branch Chairperson İlhan Karakurt, when the Justice & Development Party, AKP deputy Menderes Türel has taken up the position after the 2014 elections in Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, he was deported twice from Antalya to Gündoğmuş, province of Antalya, for political reasons, where he served as a teacher-administrator during the Republican People’s Party, CHP deputy Mustafa Akaydın period. He has returned by the court decision. His place of duty had been changed 5 times in the province. Afterwards, he was dismissed because of his alleged unlawful appointment as a government official. As if it was not enough, also a case was opened against the Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Mustafa Akaydın. Then Mustafa Akaydın was acquitted first, and then İlhan Karakurt won the court and was returned to duty.
All Municipal and Local Government Service Workers Union (Tüm-Bel-Sen) Antalya Branch Chairperson İlhan Karakurt, has started his speech by saying, “My dismissal is not a special case for İlhan Karakurt” with sincerity. “When the Justice & Development Party, AKP deputy Menderes Türel has taken up the position after the 2014 elections in Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, he was deported twice from Antalya to Gündoğmuş, province of Antalya, for political reasons, where he served as a teacher-administrator during the Republican People’s Party, CHP deputy Mustafa Akaydın period. Gündoğmuş province is 2.5 hours away from Antalya… He has returned with a court decision. His place of duty had been changed five times in the province. Afterwards, he was dismissed because of his alleged unlawful appointment as a government official. As if it was not enough, also a case was opened against the Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Mustafa Akaydın. Then Mustafa Akaydın was acquitted first after then İlhan Karakurt won the court and returned to the duty.” Karakurt says “this is a murder of law” adding “İlhan Karakurt can become a mayor, a proxy, a president, but a government official. Menderes Türel has interpreted with the employment of hundreds of colleagues to settle with the past. First, he has discharged the subcontracted workers and then exiled other colleagues working as a government official. I was the Chairperson of the Antalya Branch of All Municipal and Local Government Service Workers Union (Tüm-Bel-Sen) and we used all the legal devices to keep the issue on the agenda.”
“IF DEMOCRACY WILL BE A CULTURE OF LIFE, THE MAYORS WILL NOT RUN THIS CITY JUST BY THEMSELVES”
İlhan Karakurt was one of the most influential figures in the 31 March, 2019 elections. He took part in the process of the publication of declarations on local elections as one of the important figures, first as components of All Municipal and Local Government Service Workers Union (Tüm-Bel-Sen) and then The Confederation of Public Employees’ Trade Unions (KESK) and Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK). When we asked about this process, he said, “the main idea in our manifesto was: If democracy will be a culture of life, the mayors will not run this city just by themselves” adding “we are an organized union in the municipal sector. Naturally, the local government process directly concerns us. Bu this problem is not only the problem of All Municipal and Local Government Service Workers Union (Tüm-Bel-Sen). Antalya should be in the process as a whole. In a city which is the capital of tourism, many problems are ranging from the spoiling of the coast to the problems of the employees and these problems concern different parts of the city. From this point of view, we came together with the several dynamics of Antalya and answered the question ‘what kind of mayor should not be.’ I say ‘should not’ because we had to tell who we do not want. We specifically stated that we do not want a mayor, such as the Justice & Development Party AKP, who is predatory, profiteer and interprets the right of the employees.”
“31 MARCH, 2019 ELECTIONS ARE NOT LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS BY ITSELF”
İlhan Karakurt emphasizes a point at his point of the interview, “the 31 March elections are not local elections by itself. In a sense, it was the elections whether Turkey will choose democracy or dictatorship. In that process, we took the side of the forces of democracy without hesitation and did what was necessary. When Muhittin Böcek was declared as a CHP candidate for the Mayor of Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, we supported Muhittin Böcek and his team as all the dynamics of the city, against Menderes Türel and worked to the end.”
The declaration that İlhan Karakurt mentioned was highly debated at that time and found an important place and supported in the local press. He answered our “how effective was this declaration? Was a structure formed as you want?” questions, saying “not yet” by stating “for now.”
“THIS IS NOT ONLY A PROBLEM OF ANTALYA”
“In fact, this issue is not only a problem of Antalya. In the general political situation in our country, Antalya is significant in terms of being the local pillar of resistance against one-man rule. We say that the way to resist and develop an alternative to a dictatorial and repressive rule is through cooperation. The more the components of Antalya have a voice in the governance of Antalya, the understanding of democracy gets stronger and an alternative can be organized to one-man administration. From another perspective, we worked together, won together, should rule together.”
“MUNICIPALITY MAYOR SHOULD CONTACT WITH THE REPRESENTATIVES OF 12 THOUSAND 500 MUNICIPALITY EMPLOYEES”
When we asked “have you met with this expectation?” he answered our question carefully and selectively, “We can not say that we have seen examples of this right now. 4 months is a short period of time but from a different perspective is also a long period of time as well. As soon as possible, the stakeholders of the city should come together and especially discuss the main problems, produce solution proposals and should take action. Devices should be produced to influence decision-making mechanisms, particularly for employees. Imagine a mayor. Of course, he will meet with bus drivers, with truckers, wrestlers, he will even meet coachmen, but he will not meet with representatives of 12 thousand 500 municipal employees who perform all his services. He must also meet with them, receive interlocutors and accept their representatives.
“IMAGINE A STRIKE WITH NO SUPPORT FROM A UNION OR CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATION”
In the last part of the conversation, we bring the subject to the strike in Antalya Metropolitan Municipality. “what is he thinking about the subject as a chairperson of the branch of a union that operates in the municipal business?” He started to smile as we asked the question: “As a chairperson of the union who spent his life in the working-class struggle and spent times in prisons for this cause, I got excited to see the ‘There is a Strike in this Workplace’ lines. The unions that occurred in today’s condition, we can not even say the yellow union, there are government unionism, reference unionism, and boss unionism. These unions have employers, bosses, government, political parties but no workers. This strike coincides exactly with this definition. While Service-Business Union did not make a sound in the case of violation of rights during the 5 years of AKP and Menderes Türel period, even while silencing and punishing those who made sound, it is not convincing that saying ‘we advocated the right of the collective bargaining agreement. They did not set up an agreement so went on a strike.’ Would not they ask? You go on a strike for a right, but no union has supported you. If this strike does not receive public support, or even its legitimacy is debated, this union should question itself. Aside from this questioning, this strike is a perception management and is intended to suppress the CHP. Imagine that no one but their administrators participating in this strike. Even their own members. I think this is a unique situation for our country.”
Translated by Atakan Hüyük