Academics’ Unionised Struggles Against Neoliberal Transformation in Turkey before and Under State of Emergency

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Juliane IMBUSCH, University of Göttingen, Germany
This study investigates the main features and dimensions of the academics’ organised struggles against the peculiar form that the neoliberal transformation of higher education has taken in Turkey and the challenges that unionised academics have to cope with before and during the state of emergency, which also brings into problems of trade unionism against neoliberalism under an increasingly authoritarian political climate. The case of Turkey displays extreme changes, especially the dismissals of thousands of academics in 2016 and 2017. But the recent history of Turkish trade union activism in academia also shows partially successful stuggles against precarious working conditions of research assistants and the building up of a strong position of trade union activists on campuses.

I will analyse unionised struggles of academics against neoliberal transformation with a specific focus on the activities of one of the leading unions, Eğitim-Sen, a union which has suffered greatly, as more than three hundreds of its members in the universities are dismissed. This analysis is based on a field study that I conducted in September 2017 in four public universities while collecting personal accounts of trade union activists with a focus on working conditions, trade union activism and challenges they faced under the state of emergency issued after the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

It seems that the struggles against the neoliberal transformation that have taken place to date have differed according to the types of universities and the rules regulating the employment of academics, especially of research assistants. It seems also to be the case that, with the help of decree laws, neoliberal changes in employment regimes could be enforced and accelerated – this is to be seen in the growing insecurity and precarity of research assistants.