European Federation of Journalists

Turkey: Strike continues at Sputnik after 30 days

Credits: Members of the Journalists' Union of Turkey (TGS) hold a banner reading "The union is a right, get those dismissed back" as they hold a protest against the dismissal of their unionized workers in front of the office of Russian state media Sputnik, in Ankara on August 9, 2023. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

One month has passed since 24 journalists from the Russian news agency Sputnik in Istanbul and Ankara were dismissed. As members of the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS), they were ready to go on strike to demand better working conditions, after negotiations on a new collective agreement failed. The strike, which has been going on for 30 days, continues. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) reiterate their solidarity with the Turkish journalists and urge Sputnik to respect labour law and provide their employees with decent working conditions.

Since the beginning of the strike on 17 August 2023, Sputnik has not acceded to any of the union’s demands and the negotiations are blocked. Instead, Sputnik has hired at least 18 people to replace the strikers and nine programmers decided to resume their programs on Sputnik Radio. In addition, the Istanbul and Ankara Bureau took legal action against the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS), claiming that the trade union had not respected the legal waiting period before calling a strike. The management also claimed that TGS failed to notify Sputnik’s Ankara bureau of its intention to call a strike. 

Sputnik eventually lost in court, with Istanbul’s 4th Labour Court ruling in favour of the journalists’ union.

“The employer is hiring new staff for the radio and web departments to break the strike and reduce its impact. This is against the law and professional ethics,” said EFJ Vice-President Mustafa Kuleli. He added that the union will continue the strike and asks Sputnik to reinstate the 24 dismissed members, recognise trade union and collective rights, and agree a fair wage for union members.

The EFJ reiterates its support to the striking journalists and condemns Sputnik’s actions: “The right to strike and fight for better working conditions is enshrined in the Turkish Constitution. Journalists simply want their rights to be respected, their working conditions to be decent and their union to represent them at the negotiating table with management. We will denounce any attempt by Sputnik to circumvent labour law and their obligations as employers,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Striking is a last resort but an absolute right for all workers, and one that should be fully respected by management. We stand by TGS and its members and call on Sputnik to resume negotiations with our union and restore a healthy working environment in its offices.”