Our country has a particularly rich history of civil society and trade union action. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. The unions started to go downhill when the “apprentices” of the then-unionists, who walked around in short trousers, took over. There has been such a rapid decline that in a short period of time, not only did the prestige and power of the unions diminish, but also the trust of the working people in their trade unionists disappeared.
I am not talking about those trade unionists who act as mouthpieces of those who govern. Their purpose and target are already clear. I am writing to those who run a well-established and respected union like KTÖS today. I wish you would give up unionism and go back to teaching so that you could understand the real situation of teachers. Unionism cannot be done by sitting in union buildings like company headquarters and having fun. I hear these words from teachers who have worked as beacons of education for decades. If KTÖS administrators listen to teachers once in a while, they will hear similar words.
Anyway, I would like to leave aside today’s directionless and visionless unionism for today and tell the short story of an interesting union action from the past and the even more interesting court proceedings that followed.
It is not that long ago so most of our readers will remember it. We are in the year 2015, when there was a public outcry against the so-called Immigration Law, prompting loud demonstrations by various unions. The date is April 2, 2015. Teachers’ unions storm the TRNC Parliament General Assembly while the law is being discussed and distribute letters written on the subject to MPs.
After the protest ends, the Speaker of the Parliament informs the police and files complaints against 13 trade unionists. The charge against the unionists is “entering the TRNC Parliament General Assembly without permission”. The police file charges against the unionists.
Thinking about how to defend themselves, the unionists come up with an idea. As it is known, our Parliament building was once the Dianellos Vergopoulos cigarette factory and its director was Constantinos Damstsas. The idea that comes to the minds of the trade unionists is to cross over to the Greek Cypriot side, meet with Director Damstsas and obtain permission to enter the building. The trade unionists immediately go to Damstsas’ office in Nicosia, meet with him and obtain a permanent permit to enter his building. They even get the document notarized.
When the hearings begin, the prosecution repeats its claim and charges the unionists as follows: “You have entered the Parliament building without permission.” One of the unionists takes the floor at this point and says “no, we have permission” and passes the permission document they received from the owner, first to their lawyer and then to the judge. Meanwhile, when the prosecutor to whom the judge gave the document in question says this situation is beyond his control and that he needs to consult with the chief prosecutor, the court is adjourned.
Subsequently, the issue is revisited in the judge’s chamber. One of the trade unionists openly says, “If you convict us, we will take the matter to the ECHR and you will be prosecuted for convicting us even though we have a full-fledged entry permit from the owner of the building.” At this point, the prosecutor leaves the judge’s chambers to seek the opinion of the chief prosecutor once again, and that was that. He never shows up again. The case naturally disappears as a result.
Of course, it is very striking that the building on which the TRNC parliament sits is a cigarette factory owned by a Greek Cypriot citizen, and that our politicians, who walk around as equal sovereigns, have not felt ashamed of this situation while making laws in our parliament, where the will of the people is reflected, for 50 years, but these are subjects for other articles.
I just wanted to give a small example of the gains that our trade unionists achieved with clever moves even in the not-too-distant past and share this beautiful story that I liked very much. Maybe it will also be an inspiration to today’s trade unionists.