Confederation of labour unions founded in Istanbul on February 13, 1967.

DISK was founded by Kemal Türkler, Riza Kuas, Ibrahim Güzelce, Kemal Nebioglu and Mehmet Alpdündar representing Türkiye Maden-Is, Lastik-Is, Basin-Is, Türkiye Gida-Is and Türk Maden-Is, respectively. All of these unions were until that time affiliated to Türk-Is, except Gida-Is which was independent.

DISK was born at a time when relatively broader rights and freedoms had been recognized by the Constitution of 1961, the trade union acts of 1964 accepted the right of the workers to collective bargaining and strike, and revolutionary and socialist movements gained momentum on the politic arena. In fact, with the exception of Mehmet Alpdündar, the founders of DISK were also among the founders of the socialist Workers Party of Turkey (TIP) in 1961.

The founders of DISK had been in disagreement with Türk-Is leadership on how trade union struggle should be conducted for several years. The event that triggered the foundation of DISK, however, was the strike waged by Kristal-is in 1966-67 at the Pasabahce glass factory. Türk-Is leadership ended this strike by reaching an agreement with TISK, going over the heads of the workers and Kristal-Is. In reaction to this act, Ziya Hepbir from Petrol-Is, Kemal Türkler from Maden-Is, Kemal Ayav from Lastik-Is, Ibrahim Güzelce from Basin-Is and Muzaffer Gökceoglu from Tez Büro-Is founded a strike support committee and the strike was resumed. Türk-Is leadership retaliated by temporarily expelling Petrol-Is, Maden-Is, Lastik-Is, Basin-Is and Kristal-Is for „insistently violating the principles and discipline of the confederation". Maden-Is, Lastik-Is, Basin-Is and Gida-Is leaders assembled on 15.7.1966 to sign the Inter-Union Solidarity Agreement, which constituted the first step towards the establishment of DISK.

DISK founders later prepared a report explaining their reasons for breaking away from Türk-Is. According to them, Türk-Is had become unable to implement its own principles, allowed a readjustment of the regulations on industrial branches in breach of international norms, lost its national identity and could only survive with American help, that it pursued a placatory policy that hindered workers in attaining their rights, opposed all justified strikes and supported the foundation of employer- friendly unions against Maden-Is. They declared that a new confederation was necessary to coordinate the struggle of individual unions for the common interests of the working people. The sole income of the new confederation would be workers’ dues and donations, and it would aim the establishment of a system of equality and fraternity in the country.

The charter of the Federation included the following objectives that were later to be termed as the principles of DISK:

1) The problems of the working class can be solved in a totally independent, social-minded order, which necessitates a planned statism. 2) Heavy industry, mining, banking, insurance and large-scale transportation and foreign trade can only develop if they are controlled by the state. 3) A rapid industrialization under state control is the only way of attaining and maintaining higher living standards for working people. 4) The evaluation of national and international events from a working class and scientific point of view is necessary for enhancing the revolutionary level and awareness of workers. 5) A radical land reform is required for bettering the conditions of peasants and providing a basis and support for the industry, as well as reducing unemployment. 6) Professional struggle is not sufficient for attaining the full rights of workers. It must be complemented by political struggle, utilizing all of the democratic rights enumerated in the Constitution.

The charter also stated that regardless of the relevant legislation, the internal organization of the Confederation would be based on 16 industrial branches.

The first general assembly meeting of DISK took place in Istanbul on 15.6.1967. Some of the resolutions adopted at the congress were: support to the campaing „War Against Hunger" launched by the student organizations, establishing a solidarity fund with the assistance of larger unions to help the weaker ones, research on occupational diseases and accidents, and converting the DISK newspaper into a weekly that would be distributed free of charge. The board elected at the meeting consisted of: Kemal Türkler (chairman), Ibrahim Güzelce (general secretary), Sinasi Kaya (vice-chairman), Mehmet Alpdündar, Riza Kuas, Kemal Nebioglu, Kemal Ayav, Necati Akbay, Avni Erakalin, Binali Ökce, Ehliman Tuncer, Nusret Önsüer and Nurettin Tezel.

By 1967, 6 other unions (Turizm-Is, Kimya-Is, Bank-Is, EMSIS, TADSIS, Gaziantep Tekstil) had joined DISK, which reported its total membership as 65,730.

The second congress convened on 24-25.2.1968. The charter was amended so that the board was to be composed of one representative each from the 16 industrial branches, and an executive committee of 5 persons was instituted. If there was no affiliate in an industrial branch, its place would be kept pending. The board was empowered to examine the charters and programs of all political parties and to decide which one was to be supported by the confederation. The general assembly decided that DISK should cooperate with progressive student organizations and the intellectuals in democratic resistance. It elected Kemal Türkler as chairman, Kemal Sülker as general secretary and Ehliman Tuncer, Necat Ökten and Kemal Ayav as members of the executive committee, while the board was composed of Riza Kuas, Mehmet Alpdündar, Nurettin Tezel, Remzi Cakar, Ibrahim Atilal, Celal Beyaz, Imam Ates, Cavit Sarman, Kemal Nebioglu and Salih Irge.

DISK’s third congress was held on 13-15.2.1970. Kemal Türkler, Kemal Sülker, Ehliman Tuncer preserved their positions, Riza Kuas and Kemal Nebioglu were elected to the executive committee, and Necat Ökten, Erdogan Özen, Celal Beyaz, Mustafa Bastan, Remzi Cakar, Sinasi Kaya, Salih Irge and Turgut Gökdere to the board.

In 1970 the Justice Party (AP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) submitted to the parliament a draft law that would endanger the existence of any other confederation than Türk-Is. The board of DISK convened on 3.6.1970 and decided to form resistance committees in accordance with the right of resistance in the Constitution. The day after the draft law was passed, Kemal Türkler held a press conference to alert the public. On June 15 and 16 the workers employed at enterprises organized by DISK stopped work and leaving the factories started to march. This action ended with the declaration of martial law in Istanbul in the evening of June 16. DISK leaders and a large number of workers were arrested and tried at military courts. The law was annulled by the Constitutional Court on 9.2.1972.

The confederation reported a total of 88,650 members as of end-1970.

DISK leaders were again arrested after the military intervention on 12.3.1971, and the work of the confederation slowed down markedly during this period.

The fourth DISK general assembly meeting was held on 12- 13.2.1973. The new executive committee was composed of Kemal Türkler (chairman), Kemal Sülker Okur, Hilmi Güner, Dincer Dogu and Turgut Gökdere, and the board of Riza Kuas, Cevat Iyigün, Cavit Sarman, Remzi Ersoylu, Salih Özbek, Macit Karabulut, Riza Erdogan and Nusret Köksal.

In this period Sosyal-Is (office and education branch), Asis (wood industry), Baysen-Is (construction), Has-Is (health), Özgür Haber-Is and Yeni Haber-Is (communications), Tek-Is (energy), Petkim-Is (petroleum and chemicals), Tekstil (textile), Tek Bank-Is (bank and insurance), Kapfer Genel-Is (services) and Devrimci Toprak-Is (agriculture) joined DISK, raising the total membership of the confederation to 270,000.

DISK applied at this time to ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation) for affiliation, but was rejected. In the meantime rivalry continued between DISK and Türk-Is affiliates, sometimes giving rise to actual fighting as in the case of the controversies between Turizm-Is and Oleyis at the Celik Palas Hotel in, and Gida-Is and Tek Gida-Is at the Ulker plants in Istanbul.

At the general elections in 1973 and the following local elections DISK decided to support the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and criticised the right-wing coalition governments that came to power.

The fifth congress (21-24.5.1975), which was a turning point in the history of DISK, reflected the new fragmentation in the Turkish left, that began to recover itself parallel to the return to civilian governments.

The general assembly adopted a series of important resolutions on women’s rights, universal holiday on Saturdays, democratization of the labour code, recognition of the right to general, solidarity and similar strike forms, banning of lockouts, trade union rights for civil servants, re-regulation of industrial branches, etc. The congress stressed the importance of closer relations with the international trade union movement, and particularly the unions of Third World countries. The proposal to move the headquarters of the confederation to Ankara was rejected. Amendments were made in the internal organization: the executive committee was to be made up of 7 members and the board of 20, the condition of one member each from affiliated unions being discontinued.

The new executive committee was composed of Kemal Türkler (chairman), Ibrahim Güzelce (general secretary), Mehmet Kilinc, Celal Kücük, Riza Güven, Kemal Nebioglu and Karaca, and the board of Hakki Öztürk, Sükrü Özbayrak, Mihlaci, Kenan Akman, Niyazi Kuas, Mustafa Karadayi, Niyazi Arslan, Erol Yalcin, Mülayim Güdücü, Fuat Pinarbasi, Cevat Özhasirci, Selahattin Sayin, Halil Hayta, Tuncer Kocamanoglu, Nihat Öztürk, Ali Samet, Kemal Yilmaz, Yurdakul Gözde, Ali Sahin and Mehmet Akinci.

The following period witnessed a boost in the popularity of DISK, which now counted 25 members with the affiliation of Ges-Is, Nakliyat-Is, Teknik-Is, Mab-Is, Besin-Is, Cagdas Gida-Is, Ilerici Yapi-Is, Aster-Is, Ilerici Deri-Is, Aster-Is, Bank-Sen, Gam-Sen, T.I.S., Cagdas Maden-Is and Oleyis. The most important growth occurred with the affiliation of the former Türk-Is member Genel-Is under the leadership of Abdullah Bastürk. By this time the membership of DISK was close to 600,000.

In accordance with DISK’s policy of „one union in each branch", DISK affiliates in the same branches were requested to merge. Tek Bank-Is, Cagdas Gida-Is, Ilerici Yapi-Is and Özgür Haber-Is were expelled when they failed to comply with this rule. DISK was at that time publishing one monthly and one weekly periodical, and had bought the major share in the daily „Politika" which became a vehicle for communicating DISK policies to a larger public.

Although defending the view that the unity of the working class should be realized inside DISK, the confederation also tried in 1976 and 1977 to enter a dialogue with Türk-Is. Its impact in the social and political life of the country was growing, and in September 1975 it organized two demonstrations in Izmir and Istanbul for „Struggle for Democratic Rights and Freedoms".

In April 1976 general secretary Ibrahim Güzelce died and his funeral was attended by masses of workers, as well as members of other democratic organizations. Güzelce was replaced by Karaca.

In 1976 DISK organized a march and demonstration at Taksim square in Istanbul to celebrate First of May as the unity and struggle day of the working class for the first time in 51 years.

When the right-wing coalition government attempted to revive the special courts for political violations, in July 1976 DISK warned the public that this would in fact mean an undeclared martial law. It declared September 16 as a „day of mourning", and called the workers „to act as they wanted" on that day and to organize silent marches and demonstrations. DISK members stopped work in many parts of the country on that day. This appeal was supported by some Türk-Is affiliates, CHP and other mass organizations. Assistance was provided to the workers who were laid off because of the action against the security courts.

On 24.10.1976 the confederation held an extraordinary general assembly meeting to discuss the matter of increasing the membership dues and reinforcing the solidarity fund of DISK.

At the 1977 general elections the executive bodies of the confederation decided to support CHP against the danger of fascism.

In 1977 participation to the First of May demonstration organized by DISK was even larger than the previous year, but the peaceful demonstration ended in a blood bath when unknown persons opened fire to the crowd toward the end of the rally and 35 people were killed.

Disputes arose in DISK later that year between the socialist and social-democratic groups, particularly on account of the appeal of chairman Kemal Türkler to the public for forming a national democratic front. These developments affected the 6th congress of the confederation that was held on 22-26.12.1977. Kemal Türkler, who had been the chairman of the confederation since its foundation, lost the elections and was replaced by Abdullah Bastürk, chairman of Genel-Is. The other members of the new executive committee were Fehmi Isiklar (general secretary), Mukbil Zirtiloglu, Riza Güven, Kemal Nebioglu, Tuncer Kocamanoglu and Mustafa Aktulgali. The board was composed of Burhan Sahin, Kenan Budak, Selahattin Sayin, Cenan Bicakci, Ismet Cantekin, Ertan Andas, Ismail Hakki Önal, Belgüzar Can, Demirhan Tuncay, Celal Kücük, Kenan Akman, Niyazi Kuas, Nusret Aydin, Mehmet Kilinc, Mustafa Karadayi, Erol Yalcin, Ridvan Budak, Kemal Yilmaz, Ahmet Agir and M.Cengiz Acar.

The congress adopted a number of resolutions concerning an anti-fascist and anti-imperialist front, the unity of the working class and liquidationism, national independence, democratization of the unions, joint principles of education and collective negotiation for the affiliates, strike rights, trade union rights for civil servants and other issues.

In the period following the congress, a CHP government was in power but at the same time social chaos and terrorist actions began to climb rapidly. Associations and trade unions were repressed, some were closed and their leaders were arrested. The powers of the police were extended and preparations were made to establish special security courts. Employers became even more vehement in their demands for the curtailment of union rights and claimed that the high wages were the main source of the spiralling inflation. Finally, the CHP government resigned and the new government was formed by the Justice Party, which adopted an economic package reducing state intervention in the economy, devaluating the Turkish lira and lifting the control on prices. During this time, DISK blamed the right-wing parties for these developments, while extending critical support to CHP.

In 1978 DISK organized a First of May rally again in Taksim Square and there was a large participation in spite of the bloody events of the previous year. On March 20, 1978 DISK members stopped work for 2 hours to protest the murder of a group of university students as „a warning to fascism". DISK protested when the CHP government declared martial law in December 1978 in various provinces of the country after a massacre in Kahramanmaras, and on 5.1.1979 DISK members stopped work for 5 minutes throughout Turkey to condemn fascism.

By 1979 martial law had expanded to cover also Istanbul, and the First of May celebrations were held in Izmir, while in 1980 the celebrations were totally banned. DISK members organized a job action, with the participation of some Türk-Is members, on 30.4.1980 to protest this ban.

In this period DISK developed a single-type of democratic charter for all of its affiliates and established a research institute. In the meantime the leadership suspended for a term of one year the membership of four unions: Maden-Is, Bank-Sen, Baysen and Yeralti Maden-Is. These unions were accused of using different slogans than those chosen by DISK leadership at the First of May rally in 1978, participating in demonstrations without the permission of DISK, and sabotaging DISK meetings. Several leaders of these unions were punished by permanent dismissal from DISK.

At a series of meetings held at the Genel-Is facilities in Ören, the leaders of DISK and affiliated unions formulated the „demands of DISK" which were to form the basis for a democratic platform, and described the fundamental principles of democratic class and mass unionism. DISK later arranged several meetings with democratic organizations for cooperation against fascism and terror, and made an appeal to Türk-Is for joint action against the murders and reactionary aggressions.

The confederation held its 7th general assembly meeting on 25.6-2.7.1980. The congress decided to pardon the six unionists from Maden-Is and Bank-Sen who had been expelled from the confederation by the disciplinary committee. The charter was amended to emphasize the unity of the working class. The new statutes reiterated the basic DISK principles that it was a democratic and independent mass and class organization working to ensure unity among workers regardless of their gender, race, language, religion and political views.

At the elections, Abdullah Bastürk and Fehmi Isiklar preserved their positions as chairman and general secretary, respectively, while Mukbil Zirtiloglu, Riza Güven, Süleyman Celebi, Ertan Andas and Kemal Daysal became the other members of the executive committee. The new board was composed of Belgüzar Can, Yalcin Talaka, Ekrem Akkus, Akcin Koc, Ismail Hakki Önal, Kenan Akman, Yasar Arikan, Ridvan Budak, Turan Ata, Tahir Güner, Mustafa Karadayi, Demirhan Tuncay, Özcan Kesgec, Murat Tokmak, Selahattin Sayin, Ali Özariklioglu, Mehmet Karaca, Durmus Ali Yalniz, Celal Kücük, Müslim Sahin, Cetin Uygur and Burhan Sahin.

After the military coup on 12.9.1980, the National Security Council suspended the activities of DISK and its affiliated unions. Their assets were confiscated and put under trustee administration. 52 DISK leaders were arrested and put on trial with the demand of death penalty on the grounds that they had „attempted to demolish the constitutional regime". The military court decided in 1981 to close DISK and its members. This ruling was appealed and in 1991 the Military Court of Appeals overruled this decision and acquitted the union leaders. Thus DISK was able to resume its activities after an interval of 12 years.

The 8th general assembly was held on 19-22.1.1992, and Kemal Nebioglu (chairman), Süleyman Celebi (general secretary), Ömer Ciftci, Riza Güven, Ismail Hakki Önal, Kemal Daysal and Hulusi Karli were elected to the board. In June 1992 the leaders of all DISK affiliates assembled in Ören to take stock of the changes that had occurred during the period when DISK was closed. They established that unionization in general had severely declined, the former union cadres had almost disappeared, and most of their former members were retired or otherwise withdrawn from the labour market. This situation, coupled with the aggressions of the employers and the changes in production and technology required the formulation of new trade union policies. Extra emphasis had to be placed on cooperation between unions and the organization of white-collar workers.

Following this meeting DISK, Türk-Is, Hak-Is, unions of civil servants and professional chambers came together to form a Democratic Platform.

DISK affiliated at this period to ICFTU, ETUC and later to OECD-TUAC.

By 1994 DISK had 16 affiliates (TIS, Lastik-Is, Petkim-Is, Gida-Is, Tekstil, Deri-Is, Tümka-Is, Basin-Is, Bank-Sen, Birlesik Metal-Is, Limter-Is, Sosyal-Is, Nakliyat-Is, Devrimci Saglik-Is, Oleyis and Genel-Is), 14 of which had organized over 10% of the workers in their branches, and had a total of 330,000 members. It had 7 regional representative offices, a representative office in Ankara, and a research institute.

The 9th congress was held on 4-7.8.1994. The general assembly elected to the board Ridvan Budak (chairman), Mehmet Atay (general secretary), Vahdettin Karabay, Cetin Uygur, Sabri Kaplan, Dogan Halis and Muzaffer Subasi.

In July 1995 Emek-Sen, the union of retired workers, was founded by the initiative of DISK and joined the confederation. Hür Cam-Is and Keramik-Is amalgamated under the name of Keramik Cam-Is and affiliated to DISK.

After the congress DISK gave active support to the struggle of civil servants for trade union rights, and DISK members supported their one day strike on 20.12.1994. DISK protested the plans to raise the retirement age and organized a march to Ankara under the slogan of „No to Retirement in the Grave".

DISK convened an extraordinary general assembly meeting on 26-28.1.1996. The board elected at this congress is composed of Ridvan Budak (chairman), Kemal Daysal (general secretary), Atilla Öngel, Hulusi Karli, Vahdettin Karabay, Tayfun Görgün and Cetin Uygur.

The 11th congress was held on 12-14 September 1997. The board elected at this congress is compesed of Ridvan Budak (chairman), Murat Tokmak (general secretary), Atilla Öngel (deputy chairman), H. Hulusi Karli (organization secretary), Vahdettin Karabay (regislation, workers’ health and work safety department), Enver Öktem and Cetin Uygur (education and research department).

At the last congress membership of MEDYA-SEN was accepted. Moreover, 37 resolutions in varions aspects were issued and some articles of its statute were changed.

It has 11 representative offices in Belgium (European Representative Office), Ankara, Adana, Izmir, Bursa, Antalya, Edirne, Diyarbakir, Samsun, Izmit and Gaziantep.

It publishes a periodical called „DISK’in SESI" and a bulletin called „DISK-AR" which reported 325,404 members as of July 1997.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | November 1998

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