Strike at BBC’s Istanbul bureau ends after deal reached

A dozen employees at the British broadcaster went on strike last year after it offered raises not in tune with skyrocketing inflation in Turkey.

Employees of BBC Istanbul and fellow journalists on strike
The labour action was the first at a media organisation in Turkey in 13 years [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

A strike at the Istanbul bureau of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ended after employees and the broadcaster agreed on new financial terms.

A dozen employees launched the labour action in December after the media organisation offered a pay raise significantly lower than inflation levels in Turkey, which have skyrocketed in recent months.

The Journalists Union of Turkey, which BBC employees are a member of, was involved in the negotiations with the broadcaster.

The BBC’s highest reported offer of a 20 percent salary raise was increased to 32 percent during the talks, which resulted in the agreement.

The broadcaster also extended the coverage of the private health insurance it provides to families of the employees, increased the amount of a lunch allowance, and committed to paying for glasses for employees up to 1,200 Turkish liras ($90), the Journalists Union of Turkey said on Saturday.

The strike was the first at a media organisation in Turkey in 13 years.

Journalists from BBC Istanbul seen on strike
BBC employees announced their strike in mid-December outside the Istanbul offices of the BBC [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

‘Important achievements’

The chairperson of the Journalists Union of Turkey, Gokhan Durmus, said BBC’s offers were well under inflation levels for two years in a row and, therefore, employees decided to go on strike after collective bargaining talks failed.

“The morale and motivation provided by this strike will encourage our colleagues, who have been subjected to insecure and bad working conditions with low pay across the media sector, to gather under the union’s roof and fight together,” Durmus said in a statement.

“This is the first strike [in Turkey’s media] since 2009 and before BBC Istanbul Bureau, no international media went on strike in Turkey,” he added.

“The achievements reached through the strike are important for journalists both working for international and local media in Turkey, and it is a reference for the future.”

BBC employees announced their strike in mid-December when they hung a banner outside the Istanbul offices of the BBC in the Beyoglu district.

Surge in living costs

The Turkish lira weakened 44 percent last year against the US dollar before the fall of the currency stopped in December after government interventions and a scheme to protect bank deposits in lira from depreciation against foreign currencies.

Inflation increased to its peak in 19 years in 2021 at 36 percent, the highest under the presidency of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The surge in living costs in the country slammed household purchasing power, leading the government to take measures including a 50 percent rise in the monthly minimum wage, which is currently set at 4,250 lira ($313) to offset inflation.

Late 2021 saw Turkish citizens in long lines to buy cheap subsidised bread from local shops, while the price of electricity, natural gas and petrol significantly jumped.

Source: Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera and news agencies