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Turkey: Local AFP journalists to go on strike over pay

Staff to go on strike next month if the French news agency does not raise salaries in accordance with Turkey's actual inflation rate
AFP's headquarters are located in Paris, France (AFP)
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Ankara

Turkish staff members of Agence France-Presse (AFP) have decided to go on strike next month if the news agency doesn’t raise their salaries in accordance with Turkey's actual inflation, a spokesperson for the Turkish Journalism Union (TGS) said on Thursday.

The main point of disagreement between the sides is the size of the salary hikes, as the French public news wire claims the Turkish journalists are well paid compared to their colleagues. 

“Our sole aim is to protect our colleagues against the soaring inflation,” said Gokhan Durmus, TGS chairman. “We aren’t actually looking at an actual rise in payment.”

The Turkish government’s official statistics indicate that annual inflation passed 19 percent in August. However, the journalists argue that the inflation calculations in Turkey aren’t reliable, as basic products and renting fees have increased much higher than the official numbers.

Some economists believe actual inflation last year alone was between 36 and 50 percent. Even official statistics indicate that the price of basic foods such as meat, chicken, eggs, olive oil, milk and yoghurt had jumped between 23 and 64 percent year-on-year last month.

'The AFP representatives aren’t even aware of the fact that there is a huge gap between the official and real inflation rates. Yet what they offer is even below the official inflation'

- Gokhan Durmus, TGS general manager

“The AFP representatives aren’t even aware of the fact that there is a huge gap between the official and real inflation rates,” Durmus said. “Yet what they offer is even below the official inflation.”

Turkish journalists working for the AFP are paid in Turkish lira, while their foreign colleagues receive euros, shielding them against the fluctuations in the country, sometimes even offering extra income.

AFP told the union that it doesn’t have financial assets to make the pay rises it is demanding.

The news agency told Middle East Eye it "regrets the announcement of this strike" and said it "would like to re-state that the door is always opened to more discussions".

"Regarding inflation rates, all we can say is that for several years now, we have made many efforts, despite the crisis affecting our clients and its impact on us, to improve the salary conditions of our journalists in Turkey," an AFP spokesman said.

"The last proposal made to the staff amounts to a total which is well above inflation (more than twice the official inflation rate). AFP would also stress that its journalists are paid well above the average wages in the Turkish media industry."

Even though the Turkish economy is poised for a rebound, with a rapid growth rate of 21.7 percent in the second quarter this year, the official unemployment rate remains above 10 percent, while real unemployment is estimated as well above 25 percent.

If no deal is reached with Turkish staff by October, the union will begin the strike by sticking a letter declaring the action on a wall in AFP's Istanbul office, as is required by local law.