Sunday, 8 March 2009

Greetings on International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women's Day today this blog is posting a story that began in September 2006. 84 workers, 82 of them women, making medical equipment in Turkey went on strike for over a year, fighting against gross abuses by their employer Novamed.

Following is a list of some of the abuses as alleged by the woman workers of the union:

* Married woman workers are not allowed to become pregnant without FMC Novamed's approval. Each worker is given a schedule, which specifies during which months they are allowed to become pregnant. If a woman worker becomes pregnant in "breach" of this given schedule, she is terminated without compensation.
* Woman workers are required to get permission from the employer before getting married.
* To "save energy" for their work at the factory, workers are being advised:
- not to accept guests in their own homes when they are off the clock,
- not to communicate or even have sex with their spouses when they are off the clock,
- not to see each other when they are off the clock,
- only to eat and sleep when they are off the clock.
* Workers are treated inhumanely, and continuously humiliated regardless of whether they make a mistake or not.
* Managers and supervisors call their workers to their office and accuse and humiliate them in such a way that there are few workers who come out of these accusation-performances without crying.
* Workers are not allowed to talk to each other during work hours, as well as in the shuttle during their trips from and to work.
* Workers are allowed inside the factory premises after being "sniffed" by their supervisors, because smoking during work hours is forbidden.
* During work hours, there is only a 15-minute break and a 25-minute lunch break. During lunch, instead of food, the factory is serving tea and cookies.
* An average shuttle trip from home to work may take as long as 2 hours because there are not enough shuttles allocated by the factory for the workers.

Read more here.


Picket sign states: "We decide when we give birth"


Novamed women's union poster

At the outset of the battle there was no union at their factory but they got organised with the help of the union Petrol-Is. After 447 hard days striking, up against anti-union tactics by management, but with wide international solidarity, the workers won.

From December 18th 2007:
A three-year initial labour agreement was signed today in Istanbul between Petrol-Is and Novamed that ends a historic strike by 84 of the workers in Mersin, Antalya. The strike, which will stand as a test of courage for fairness and dignity on the job, began on 26 September 2006.

The settlement will bring the 84 strikers, 82 of whom are women, back to the job, and will grant all workers a wage increase of 5% for the first year, and of 4% for the second and third year of the agreement. It also brings a social package that includes a payment for each of two religious holidays in Turkey, as well as productivity and attendance bonuses for workers. All the striking workers will return to work on the 2nd of January 2008.




The agreement was historic as it marked the first trade union inside Antalya, Turkey's 'Free Trade Zone' (an area where sweatshops can operate).

Read about their victory in full.


Novamed is owned by Fresenius Medical Care of Germany. This firm manufactures one of the types of blood bags used by the National Blood Service in this country. Workers in the NBS have a direct connection to these brave and inspiring people.

Fresenius has also been investigated over bribery allegations.

"According to a 2005 UN report, Fresenius Medical Care was one of more than 2,000 firms around the world alleged to have made illicit payments to Saddam Hussein's government to profit from the aid programme."

Read more here.

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15 Comments:

At 8 March 2009 at 19:41 , Anonymous Vez said...

Great entry. Happy IWD.
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