Their walkout is backed by UK media union BECTU and UNI Global Union

After roughly five months of negotiations, BBC journalists in Turkey are on strike today. The walkout comes after the British broadcaster refused to propose a reasonable offer to Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikası (Turkish Journalists Union or TGS) over a pay rise that keeps up with the country’s inflation rate, better access to health care, and other key issues.

With the inflation rate as high as nearly 36 per cent according to the BBC, TGS reports that the average yearly salary of a BBC Turkey worker is US$13,700 in 2021 than in 2018. The TGS is requesting a 30 per cent raise and an additional annual bonus payment.

Gökhan Durmuş, the General President of the TGS, said, “Our members are proud to work with the BBC’s strong editorial values as part of one of the most respected media organizations in the world. They simply want to protect themselves, get compensation for the meltdown of their wages and have access to similar rights as other BBC employees.

“Their demands are reasonable, and the BBC can easily meet them without creating an additional burden on its own budget. Since January 2020, the British pound has gained 80 per cent in value against the Turkish lira. This means the employer has, in less than one year, gained 80 per cent from the salaries of our members who earn in Turkish liras.”

Additionally, these journalists—who have been on the frontlines during the pandemic—are calling for private health insurance to ensure that they and their families can receive adequate care. They note that Turkey’s public healthcare system is overwhelmed with Covid-19. However, the company has refused to ensure that staff have adequate access to care.

Philippa Childs, Head of UK union BECTU, which represents BBC workers, said “Our Turkish colleagues report with fairness, and the BBC should show that same fairness in how it treats them. We stand in solidarity with Turkish journalists, and we will not stand for the BBC eroding global standards of work. Management should return to good faith bargaining with the TGS immediately.”

Childs is also vice president of UNI Global Union’s Media & Entertainment sector.

In addition to a wage with dignity and better access to healthcare, TGS members are also asking for allowances for transport, meals while at work, and the same pension system the BBC uses in the UK and other international offices.

“These brave journalistic teams are working during a deadly pandemic and in one of the most hostile countries in the world for the freedom of press,” said Oliver Roethig, the Regional Secretary of UNI Europa. “It is shocking that the BBC does not recognize their high-quality reporting work, their bravery and their sacrifice at the bargaining table. It is time Turkish BBC workers have basic economic security and quality healthcare.” Both BECTU and the TGS are affiliates of UNI Global Union, a federation of skills and service workers in 150 countries.