Last Friday, Hungary’s PDSZ teacher union held a two-hour nationwide warning strike at public schools across the country. The issue of the strike was that talks with the government have failed to be conclusive on the 25 demands made on cutting compulsory classroom hours, easing curricula and administrative burdens, on wage hikes or a free choice of textbooks. Under strike laws, schools had to stay open and provide care for pupils while teachers not on strike had to work as usual. The day-long strike was the third in a series of larger protests from teachers in recent weeks against the state of Hungary’s public education system. PDSZ chairman László Mendrey said several hundred schools and thousands of teachers took part in the strike.
Piroska Galló, the head of PSZ, another teachers’ union, declared the nationwide day-long teacher strike a success. The latest reports from the union’s county offices indicate that 24 960 public school teachers and workers participated in the strike, Ms. Galló said early in the afternoon, adding that the number could grow still. She said a total of 1 185 schools took part in the protest, some of them with the entire faculty on strike. The teachers’ strike, the largest in kind held in Hungary since 1995, was supported by four TU confederations, 26 unions and several civic organisations. Several partner organisations also staged solidarity actions. She said it remains to be seen if the strike will be effective in pushing the government to meet teachers’ demands, noting that talks between the two sides will continue. She said they would not accept the twice-off bonuses of 35 000 forints each offered to non-teaching staff, insisting it should be at least 100 000 forints. The idea that only employees of state school manager Klik would get these payments is also unacceptable, Ms. Galló added.
How parties reacted to teachers’ demands:
In reaction to teachers’ demands, the opposition green LMP party said schools serve the future generations and not the government, and called on the cabinet to handle Hungarian educational institutions in that spirit. Máté Kanász Nagy, party spokesman for youth affairs, said the government failed to understand at all any of the events that surrounded the issue of education in the recent past.
The opposition left-liberal Democratic Coalition (DK) expressed solidarity with the teachers and welcomed their “nationwide” strike which shows that the Orbán government “cannot go against the will of Hungarians any longer and kidnap their future”. The party called on the government to stop threatening teachers who participated in the strike.
Együtt (Together), another smaller left-liberal, party said the government “tries to mislead” teachers by “lying” to them when pledging to provide 100 billion forints in central funding for public education, promising teachers broader freedom in setting the curriculum and school directors broader scope of financial management. It was unacceptable that some mayors for ruling Fidesz “threatened” teachers who participated in the strike with legal consequences in their employment, a party official said.
The ruling conservative Fidesz said in response that the majority of teachers realised that they have been used by the opposition for political purposes which is why only one-fifth of them joined the strike. The party said that while the previous Socialist governments had reduced public education funding and cut teachers’ wages, the Fidesz government continued to increase funding, took over managing schools and implemented the largest wage increase for teachers so far.
photos: hirek.ma; nepszava.hu; nlcafe.hu; 24.hu; hataratkelo.hu; MTI:Balogh Zoltán