A labor dispute at Agrobay Seracilik, one of Turkey's largest high-tech tomato and pepper greenhouse facilities with 320 acres, has ignited protests, worker resistance, and even police interventions in Izmir, Turkey. The conflict, which began with the dismissal of 39 workers, including two engineers, has raised concerns about workers' rights, union involvement, and heavy-handed security responses.
The turmoil began when 39 employees, all members of the Agriculture Workers Union (Tarım-Sen), were abruptly terminated from their positions at Agrobay Seracilik. The company cited various reasons for their dismissals, including allegations of misconduct under "Kod 46," a labor code, such as breaching trust, theft, and disclosing company secrets.
In response to these layoffs, the affected workers launched a protest outside the company's premises, demanding justice and the reinstatement of their jobs. Their resistance has been ongoing for nearly 24 days and has drawn the attention of the public, labor unions, and media outlets.
Agrobay Seracilik issued a statement defending their actions. They claimed that the termination of employees was a result of the widespread ToBRFV, Rugose virus, which severely impacted their greenhouse operations. The company asserted that they had tried to address the surplus employment situation through alternative measures but had to terminate some workers due to compelling reasons.
Allegations of worker mistreatment
The protesting workers, however, accuse Agrobay Seracilik of exploiting the virus prevention measures by imposing unpaid leave on employees without their consent and even threatening to withhold severance pay from those who refused. They also shed light on alleged harsh working conditions, including female workers subjected to extreme temperatures and exposure to chemicals without proper insurance coverage.
Police intervention and arrests
The labor dispute took a more contentious turn when, on September 15, 2023, law enforcement officers intervened in the ongoing protest. The gendarmerie's action led to the arrest of several individuals, including union representatives, lawyers, and journalists.
The Turkey Journalists Union swiftly condemned the arrests and expressed support for the workers, emphasizing the importance of freedom of the press and the rights of journalists to cover such events.
As the conflict persists, the protesting workers remain resolute in their demands. They call upon Agrobay Seracilik to honor their legal rights, including severance pay and unpaid wages, and to ensure fair and safe working conditions.
The labor dispute at Agrobay Seracilik is emblematic of broader concerns about workers' rights, fair labor practices, and the role of unions in Turkey. The ongoing protests and police interventions underscore the gravity of the situation, prompting calls for a resolution that respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved.