School teachers across Hungary gear up for major protests

The conservative government in Hungary led by Viktor Orban is trying to restrict teachers’ strikes by issuing a special decree calling for mandatory teaching services in schools citing the COVID-19 crisis

March 07, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Teachers Strike - Hungary
From the teachers strike on January 31. (Photo: via Masina)

School teachers across Hungary are gearing up for major protests, including an indefinite general strike from March 16. They are demanding better salaries, more staff, reduction in workload and better working conditions. On Wednesday, March 2, representatives from the Teachers’ Union (PSZ) and the Democratic Union of Teachers (PDSZ), while briefing the media in front of the ministry of human resources, reiterated their decision to go for a general strike on March 16. This was following an unsuccessful negotiation with the government representatives. 

On Thursday, hundreds of teachers organized a demonstration in the city of Pecs to protest government intimidation of the protesting teachers. The teachers’ union has already organized warning strikes in different schools across the country, including a major strike on January 31 in which around 20,000 employees from the public education sector participated.

PSZ president Zhuza Szabo told Masina that “the amount of work is increased by administrative tasks that are increasing in education, as well as by an alarming shortage of teaching staff. The education system currently lacks 12,000 people, not counting those teachers who need to replace colleagues because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The conservative government in Hungary led by Viktor Orban has resorted to intimidation tactics to prevent the upcoming teachers’ strike. Following the major strike in January, the government issued a special decree on February 11 demanding mandatory functioning of schools during strikes citing the COVID-19 situation. Merce reported that “according to the decree, in the event of a strike, students must be supervised by qualified teachers between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on all working days affected by the strike. In addition, schools affected by the strike are obliged to hold 50% of their lessons, and students who are about to graduate cannot miss any lessons in their compulsory baccalaureate subjects because of the strike, meaning the government asks teachers to work during the strike.”

Teachers’ unions had approached the metropolitan court to challenge the special decree but the court rejected their petition. It also rejected the government’s plea to declare the strike as illegal. The unions took the issue to the Constitutional Court on February 22 in order to invalidate the government’s decree which they perceive as a threat to their fundamental right to protest.

In a joint statement issued on February 12, the PSZ and the PDSZ stated that the “government’s decree restricting the right to strike, promulgated on the evening of 11 February 2022 is contrary to the Fundamental Law. Trade unions do not accept that the government restricts fundamental rights on the basis of the Empowerment Act. You have no right to do so, this is an abuse of rights.”