Flexibilization of labor in Turkey

In Turkey, the most important step that imposed precarity in labor market was the 2003 Labor Law. After the Law introduced flexibility to working life, working hours have started to be determined at capitalists’ will
Sunday, 08 January 2017 21:21

Right after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, one of the first changes was made in labor market legislation by introducing flexibilization, or flexicurity as the fashion statement used recently. 2003 Labor Law has been the beginning of this process and the latest regulation made in 2016 is known as “rental worker”.

Within this process, working hours started to be determined at capitalists’ will, despite the fact that related Law requires “mutual consent”.


According to Labor Act of Turkey, weekly working hours can be 45 hours at maximum. Daily working hours are calculated by dividing the weekly hours to six working days, unless a worker’s individual or collective agreement includes another clause. For working places where people work five days in a week, the daily working hours is 9 hours.

Overwork means working more than 45 hours in a week. Overtime working, on the other hand, means exceeding the maximum time specified in the employment contract, which is less than 45 hours.


Conditions for overwork are defined in the Labor Act. One of these conditions is that worker’s consent is required for normal overwork. However, related regulations help capitalists overcome this problem. According to the regulations, “employers in need of overwork can take workers’ consent at the beginning of each year”. This returns as obligatory to the workers, because workers usually have to accept to overwork right after getting their jobs and have to overwork in order not to losing their jobs.


Balancing work practice, which has two types, was introduced in 2003 Labor Law. The first type includes dividing 45 hours into working days unequally with the consent of worker. The second type is related with intensive working week. Accordingly, 45 hours can be exceeded weekly so as not to exceed 11 hours daily.

Two critically important issues are at stake in this regulation. The first one is, as mentioned before, that the requirement to take workers’ consent is practically not applied. The imposition of overwork leaves workers with only two options: They should either comply with flexible working hours or become unemployed. Secondly, employers are saved from paying overtime wages.

Compensatory work, on the other hand, is yet another practice enabling employers not to pay for overtime. According to the Law, employers may request compensatory working for unworked hours in the events of mandatory interruptions in business process, declaring the days before or after the religious or national holidays as holidays or working less than normal in similar days, and giving time off to a worker with the worker’s request. The compensatory working is also not regarded as overtime work or overwork, and therefore unpaid.


Flexibilization in working hours introducing balancing and compensatory work instead of paying for overtime work makes life harder for the working class. Enacted in 2003 by the AKP government, the Labor Law includes almost everything to enable flexibilization of labor that introduces precarious working conditions.

The 2003 Labor Law is important in respect to the fact that it reinterprets the principles of that the labor laws are for the benefit of working class and that workers and employers are not equal. Turkish Labor Law, prepared according to the idea that workers and employers are equals, presents mutual consent as a requirement and therefore, oppresses the working class by forcing them to the dilemma of working flexible and starving.