December 9, 2022

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Education unions are preparing for a general strike in Hungary

Education unions are preparing for a general strike in Hungary. The Trade Union Organization of Pedagogues has started preparing for the strike.

“There is a need for a joint national movement, similar to the one in the spring, but its organization takes time, because we are not a company that on an area of ​​15 thousand square meters can gather its employees almost immediately. We started organizing the strike, there are institutions where the colleagues would be willing to go on strike even in the coming days, but organizing the interruption of work for a longer period of time takes time and I believe that this action will reach its climax by the end of November”, he answered the question addressed by the Hungarian newspaper “Népszava” to the vice-president of the union, Gábor Gosztonyi, on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the new school year, organized on Thursday, by the Teachers’ Union (PSZ).

The mentioned newspaper wanted to know when it can be expected after the negotiations on Tuesday, which ended without any result, that the cessation of activity will be announced in the schools again. Gosztonyi also specified that the representatives of the PSZ and the Democratic Trade Union Organization of Pedagogues consulted until late Wednesday evening about the next steps, respectively about the fact that the PSZ will also begin evaluating the willingness to go on strike among its members.

At the opening ceremony of the new school year, the union leaders announced that the PSZ will address the international public opinion because of the flawed educational policy of the Orbán Government. The problems of public education in Hungary were summarized in a manifesto, which will be sent to the Hungarian representation at the European Commission, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Labor Organization and the Education Committee of the European Trade Union Confederation.

Education unions are preparing for a general strike in Hungary

The president of the PSZ, Zsuzsa Szabó, said that while the government’s communication is “lost on the Brussels-left axis, the PSZ will once again start to cross the country to spread even in the smallest villages the fact that: we must not back down, not we must tolerate and we must not be afraid of power”. Zsuzsa Szabó also said that, in her opinion, even within the Government, the problems of Hungarian education were reported, but instead of action, the members of the Executive turned their heads. The union leaders came to the celebration dressed in black clothes and with black umbrellas.

In their opinion, even the excitement of the beginning of the new school year has disappeared, the joy of teaching has been taken away from the teachers and “the National Anthem was broadcast over loudspeakers in vain”, thousands of parents are worried, if their child will have a teacher or a specialized teacher, if he will be able to graduate from school without a private teacher. The union leaders mentioned in the manifesto that Hungarian teachers’ salaries are the lowest among the EU member countries, which are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the net monthly salary of debutant teaching staff being equivalent to only 500 euros for which financial institutions do not even grant a loan. The trade unionists also recalled that the Hungarian Government – seeing the grievances of the pedagogues – limited the right to strike, first by decree, and then by law, in an unprecedented way in Europe.

Also, since 1848 it has not happened that a responsible Hungarian government has waited for financial aid from abroad – in this case from the European Commission – for the regulation of education problems. Tamás Totyik, the other PSZ vice-president, also mentioned the fact that in recent months the State Secretariat for Public Education has asked many times for a respite in order to prepare a proposal for the demands of trade union organizations, but the State Secretary Zoltán Maruzsa admitted at the last consultation that “The government did not have time” from April 2022 to fundamentally deal with the demands of the unions that recalled Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s promise made last October that pedagogues would benefit from a significant salary increase from 2023. This proposal has now been postponed until 2028.

The government expects that by 2028 the salaries of teachers with higher education will increase by 80% compared to the average salary of a category of people with a diploma. Teachers currently receive 60% of the average salary of a graduate with a diploma, that is, almost half compared to other categories of people with higher education.

According to the PSZ, this percentage should now be 90%, and later 100% and should be financed primarily from the country’s state budget, but instead of doing so, the Government points to the European Commission and the politicians of the Hungarian left, “disguising his incapacity for years with communication tricks”, according to Rador.

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