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In a typical individual employment contract, there may be only one worker against the employer. However, especially in our time, it is quite common for workers to come together and form groups, unions, or associations to work collectively. In this way, legal relations arise between these workers and the employer as a whole. The most important provision in our laws in relation to this legal aspect is the team contract in Article 16 of the Labour Law.

  • What is a Team Contract?

The definition of a team contract is provided in Turkish Labour Act No. 4857 Article No. 16, titled “Labor Contracts Established through Team Contracts.” According to this article; “The contract concluded between an employer and a group of employees represented by one of the employees acting as the team leader is called a team contract.”. As can be understood from this definition in the law, in order to establish a team contract, first of all, more than one worker must come together and one worker must negotiate with other workers for the work that planned to be done and sign a contract with the employer on their behalf (team leader). Although there are different opinions about the legal nature of this contract in the doctrine, the team contract is the only type of contract in the Turkish legal system that allows the establishment of a group labour relationship and has the potential to have many different functions in working life.

  • Elements and Form of a Team Contract 

It is possible to find the elements of a team contract in the continuation of Article 16 of the Labour Law together with the definition given above. Accordingly, in order to be able to talk about the existence of a team contract; 

  • There must be multiple workers. 
  • There must be an employer. 
  • One of the workers must act as the team leader. 
  • The team leader must sign a contract with the employer on behalf of the team.
  • The contract must be in writing. 
  • The identity of each worker and his/her wages must be shown in the contract.

Among these elements, the most important one is the requirement of a written agreement, which indicates the valid form of a team contract. According to the second paragraph of Article 16 of the Labor Law,The team contract must be made in written form irrespective of the duration of employment contracts which will emanate from it.” As can be seen from the text of the relevant law, the requirement of written form is not a condition of proof, but a mandatory condition of validity of the legal transaction In this context, it is clear that contracts that are not made in written form will be considered invalid. However, it should be noted that the invalidity here is the team contract between the employer and the person who made the contract as a team guide by not paying attention to the written element. Since the validity of the contract between the employee and the employer is not prejudiced, each employee can individually claim and sue for his/her rights arising from the employment contract.

  • Characteristics of Team Contract and Obligations of the Parties

Compared to a typical labor contract, a team labour contract has its own specific features clearly stated in the law. These features, which are derived from Article 16 of the Labour Law, are as follows:

  • The conclusion of a team contract does not establish a contract between the workers and the employer. The contract will be formed when the employees commence their work. (Labor Law, Article 16/3)
  • As mentioned in the elements of the team contract, the wages of the workers must be shown separately in the contract and must be paid separately to the workers themselves, not through the team leader (Labour Law 16/4).
  •  The team guide cannot be paid wages by deductions from other workers for acting as an intermediary. (Labour Law 16/4-Last Sentence)

The parties to the team contract are the employer and a worker from the team, namely the team leader. Other workers forming the team are not parties to the team contract. As in every synallagmatic contract that imposes obligations on both parties, the obligations of the parties arise when a team contract is concluded. With the establishment of the team contract, the employer is under the obligation to start the employment of the workers named in the contract under the conditions specified in the team contract, and the team leader is under the obligation to start the employment of each of the workers in the team. If any of the employees in the team fail to start their work, the team leader becomes individually responsible, in accordance with the provisions regarding the assumption of third-party acts, for each employee separately. This matter is explicitly stated in the third paragraph of Article 16 of the Labor Law.

  • Function and Potential of the Team Contract

Although the practice of teaming agreements does not attract enough attention today, the provisions of Article 16 of the Labour Law No. 4857 are very useful, important and contain many advantages. This unique contract has favorable aspects for both employers and employees. By contracting with only one person (the team leader), the employer is able to recruit more than one worker, which speeds up the recruitment process and reduces the risk of not being able to find workers. This is because there is a commitment in place, and if there are any issues, there is a responsible party that can be held accountable. Likewise, team contracts also have positive aspects for the employee. Considering the difficulties in finding employment today and the lengthy and cumbersome procedures involved in starting a job, team contracts allow workers to access employment without even needing to apply for a job and eliminating the hassle of dealing with the hiring process. In fact, it is not even necessary for the workers to enter into a proxy relationship for the signing of this contract with the team leader. Considering these advantages, team contracts can be used as an important tool for flexibility in the workplace.

It is also possible to give a different meaning to the team contract, especially for workers working in temporary jobs such as in the cinema, television, construction, tourism and agriculture sectors, where unionisation is weak and collective labour agreement is very rare. Today, people that working in these sectors cannot reach unionisation and therefore long-term and healthy employment relation with employers cannot be established. However, these workers, who cannot reach unionisation, will be able to organise in a simple and effective form with the team contract and will be able to decide their labour relations with the employer in an effective and healthy way under the leadership of the team leader.

In this context, the team contract is an important legal instrument for the continuity and health of labour relations in the highly competitive business life.

Yavuz AMİL

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