There are a number of indemnity and criminal lawsuits filed by leather and textile companies against the president of Izmir Branch of Deriteks Union under Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-İş), Makum Alagöz. He is now facing 4 trials for his social media posts on the working conditions of union members.
Makum Alagöz has been working in leather industry since he was 12 years old. He started engaging in union activities at the factory he was working in 2002 and served as the representative of the workplace. He has been the president of Izmir Branch of Deriteks Union since 2005.
First time in 2009, a lawsuit was filed against him for engaging in union activities at a leather factory. Complaints at the Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Labour included allegations that he was forcing workers of the factory to unionize by threatening them. This case was dismissed later.
In 2015, 14 workers were laid off at a leather and textile factory where Alagöz was leading union activities. An indemnity claim was filed against these workers on the grounds that they were creating “unfair competition”. The company also requested an interim injunction order at the Second Commercial Court of First Instance of Izmir. As per the ruling of the court, the banners and placards that read the company’s name were confiscated; and there was a ban on publicizing the case in the news or on social media. Despite this ruling, Alagöz continued to give updates on the pressure exerted on the factory workers on social media. As a consequence, a lawsuit demanding a compensation of 2 million Turkish liras for having degraded the company name was filed against him. Another administrative penalty case was brought against him for not respecting the interim injunction order. A global solidarity campaign was organized by the workers and concurrent protests took place in 28 countries. Considering the attention these case have attracted; the complainants withdrew their cases. The company paid union indemnity to the aforementioned workers.
Union recruitment and mobilization regained momentum in August 2019 at the same company, which resulted in 4 workers to lose their jobs. A resistance started at the company premises on July 28, 2020 and is still ongoing. The company sued the laid off workers on the grounds of “unlawful competition” and demanded a 200 thousand liras in indemnity. Another international solidarity campaign was launched. The director and the deputy managers of the company filed separate criminal complaints against Makum Alagöz, for his social media posts in which he allegedly violated their personal rights. These posts included information on the pressure the workers were facing and those executing them. During the mediation process, the employer offered to withdraw the complaints if Alagöz were to agree not to post or comment about the company on social media. The company withdrew their offer and continued with the court process after they refused Alagöz’s demands: the school expenses of the children of the miners who died during the 2014 Soma Mine Explosion should be covered and the company executives should leave flowers at the graves of these miners. 4 company executives filed separate cases against Alagöz. The first hearing took place at the 24th Criminal Court of First Instance of Izmir on July 2, 2020. The next hearing will be held on December 15, 2020 at 10.25.
Although Deriteks is primarily focused on leather and textile sectors, Makum Alagöz stood in solidarity with all workers regardless of the sector they belong. In November 2018, Alagöz went to an olive factory in solidarity with the workers laid off for being union members; he was taken under custody with 65 other unionists. A legal suit was filed against them for “violating the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” by not letting the executives of the aforementioned factory leave the premises. The court adjourned the decision for a year and 3 months imprisonment term and the case is at the court of appeal.
Alagöz was detained at the airport in Izmir, where he returned after Deriteks’ Central Board meeting on March 19, 2021. He was held at the airport station for 17 hours, not knowing what he was accused of. Later, it was learned that the basis of the detention was a complaint from employers’ representatives in a factory where they were organizing for the Union. Makum Alagöz was released on 20 March 2021.