Press Release No: Individual Application 34/17
15.11.2017

PRESS RELEASE CONCERNING THE JUDGMENT FINDING A VIOLATION OF THE RIGHT TO LABOUR UNION MEMBERSHIP

On 5 October 2017, the First Section of the Constitutional Court found a violation of the right to labour union membership guaranteed in Article 51 of the Constitution in the individual application lodged by Anıl Pınar and Ömer Bilge (no. 2014/15627).

The Facts

The applicants’ employment contracts were terminated on the ground of “underperformance”.  The applicants claimed that they were indeed dismissed because they had made attempts for membership of a labour union. In this respect, they brought actions before the Labour Court (“court”) in order to ascertain that their employment contracts had been terminated for labour union-related reasons, and they demanded compensation in this regard.

Having underlined that the applicants’ employer could not prove the alleged decrease in the applicants’ performance, the court pointed out that; according to the witness statements the applicants had been dismissed as they had intended to become a member of a labour union, that the report drawn up by the Labour Inspection Board indicated that the representative of the employer had put pressure on the employees on union-related matters, that the applicants had been dismissed after the relevant labour union had started to collect members within the company, and that after the company had dismissed 1151 employees, there were no longer any employee being a member of the labour union there. In this respect, the court acknowledged the applicants’ allegations that they had been dismissed for labour union-related reasons and held that the applicants be awarded compensation in the amount corresponding to their one-year gross wages.

The Court of Cassation concurred with the court in terms of its conclusion that the applicants’ employment contracts had been terminated without any reasonable grounds. However, as the court could not rely on sufficient and convincing evidence showing that the employment contracts of the applicants −who had not become a member of a labour union yet− had been terminated for labour union-related reasons, the Court of Cassation quashed the court’s decision in so far as it related to the compensation awarded to the applicants within the scope of their right to labour union membership.

The Applicants’ Allegations

The applicants maintained that they had been dismissed as they had intended to become a member of a labour union. In this context, they submitted that the actions brought by other employees, who had been dismissed, were concluded in favour of the relevant employees and upheld by the Court of Cassation. However, the decision concerning three persons, including them, was quashed on the ground that it could not be proven that their employment contracts had been terminated due to their relation with the union activities. In this regard, the applicants also alleged that the principle of equality was breached.

The Constitutional Court’s Assessment

In brief, the Constitutional Court made the following assessments:

The safeguards enshrined in Article 51 of the Constitution does not only cover the process following the membership of a labour union but also the period before becoming a member of a labour union, that is to say, the process during which an individual decides on being a member. Therefore, in case of the termination of an employment contract due to the employee’s participation in the activities carried out by a labour union for the purposes of informing and persuading a target group, the employer will be considered to have interfered with the employee’s right to labour union membership.  In such a case, the State is required to take measures within the scope of its positive obligations.

It appears that the court relied on the witnesses’ statements, the report issued by the Labour Inspection Board and the fact that the company had dismissed a total of 1151 employees. The witnesses heard by the court indicated in their statements that the applicants had been dismissed as they intended to become a member of a labour union and that the representative of the employer had promised to cover the notary costs likely to incur if the employees, who were currently a member of the relevant labour union, wished to resign from the company. Taking all of these facts into consideration, the court concluded that the applicants had been dismissed for the prevention of their membership to a labour union.

Stating that it cannot be sufficiently and convincingly proven that the applicants’ employment contract had been terminated due to a labour union activity, the Court of Cassation quashed the court’s decision. The Court of Cassation did not make any assessment as to the facts relied on by the court (witnesses’ statements, findings in the inspector’s report, dismissal of a great number of employees from the company and the fact that there was no longer an employee being union member within the company). Nor did the Court of Cassation provide any other concrete or substantive reasoning against the court’s assessment.

The first instance decision, which was rendered upon the examination of the relevant evidence and facts and had detailed justifications, was quashed by the relevant chamber of the Court of Cassation without any justification. It has been therefore concluded that the procedural positive obligations were not fulfilled in the present case on the ground that the Court of Cassation quashed the court’s decision without any justification vis-à-vis the court’s reasoning that was considered to be sufficient and convincing. 

In conclusion, the Constitutional Court held the applicants’ right to labour union membership safeguarded by Article 51 of the Constitution was violated.

This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.

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