THE RIGHTS OF TURKISH WORKERS
Turkish nationals residing in EU Member States may enjoy specific protections that are distinct from those available to EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals. The Ankara Agreement was signed on 12th September 1963 and an Association Council makes Decisions that ensure that the Agreement is effected. The Agreement, its Additional Protocol and Decisions of the Association Council are part of European Union law. The European Court of Justice has decided that these give specific rights to Turkish nationals and businesses which the EU Member States are required by European Union law to respect.
Of particular interest is Decision 80/1 that sets out protections of Turkish workers. The Decision ensures that Turkish workers enjoy what may be described as preferential treatment to non-EEA nationals when seeking access to employment in a Member State.
The provisions as they relate to the freedom of movement of Turkish workers are set out in Article 6 of the Decision. Under this Article, a Turkish worker who has completed one year’s legal employment in the State has the right to renew his permission to work provided he is working for the same employer and the job is available. After three years of legal employment, lesser restrictions apply to the Turkish national’s access to employment. By the time the Turkish national has completed four years legal employment, they can enjoy free access to employment. There are also specific provisions for family members of Turkish workers included in Decision 80/1.
We have recently been instructed by a Turkish worker and have been carefully considering the proper interpretation of Article 6 as it applies to our client. Our client has been told by the Department of Justice that despite completing three years legal employment, he must obtain a work permit to access employment in the State. As many of you will be aware, there are stringent criteria that must be satisfied in order to secure a work permit. We have therefore argued that these further restrictions should not apply to our client as a Turkish worker who has completed the relevant required period of legal employment. We are arguing that imposition of restrictions on accessing employment including requiring him to obtain a work permit is unlawful and in breach of Decision 80/1.
During the boom years, the Turkish population in Ireland significantly increased as many Turkish workers came over to work, predominantly in construction. We have had first-hand experience of Turkish workers not properly understanding their rights and entitlements and falling undocumented as a result. We are still awaiting a further response from the Department and anticipate that litigation may arise on this little considered area. We hope to bring some clarity to the area in coming months.