BBC Turkish journalists go on strike over pay dispute

Staff at the BBC Istanbul bureau are holding a one day strike today, after talks between BBC management and the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) broke down.

The parties had been in negotiations over a new collective labour deal that would give parity to local journalists and their international peers, but the BBC and TGS failed to reach an agreement.

The journalists announced in early December that they would go on strike if no deal was struck and have decided to take action following the deadlock.

The problems surfaced as a result of a pay rise given to local Turkish journalists, which was below the official inflation rate. The affected journalists slammed the BBC over its double standards and the way its wage policy is structured, which discriminates against local journalists, and asked for a collective labour agreement.

Currently Turkish journalists, who work across three different departments at the broadcaster, namely BBC Turkish Service, BBC Monitoring and BBC News, are on local agreements. Their pay is currently failing to keep up with the high levels of inflation in Turkey.

TGS chair Gökhan Durmuş said, “Our members at the BBC Istanbul bureau are proud to work at this prestigious and principled media outlet, which is the most important public broadcaster in the world.

But they want to maintain their purchasing power, [and] to compensate depreciation in their wages in recent years and to have similar rights as all other BBC staff.”

“The pay rise introduced by the employer in 2020 was well below the inflation rate. They are now offering a 14% rise to gross wages. In an environment where the official inflation rate is 21%, one cannot expect that we accept this offer,” Mr Durmuş continued.

A few days ago, TGS posted a video on Twitter announcing the strike:

“We are ready! As the BBC employer ignored the requests of their İstanbul staff and didn’t come up with a reasonable offer, despite all our constructive efforts, we will go on strike on January 14, Friday. We will get what is our right.”

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the UNI Global Union also tweeted messages of solidarity.

Turkey’s annual inflation rate has soared to its highest level since 2002 and the decrease in the value of the Turkish lira has hit wages hard.