Just over a week ago, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that health workers will be required to be fully vaccinated. Not long after, the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK), which has close ties to the government, has already drafted a proposal that would allow employers to make vaccination compulsory for their employees in certain jobs. The Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (MASZSZ) says the idea raises several concerns and has called for the meeting of the tripartite consultation forum of employers, employees, and the government (VKF). Meanwhile, the government says it has not yet addressed the issue, but will examine it in the future.
The Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK) is proposing an amendment to the relevant law that would allow employers to make vaccination mandatory for their employees in certain jobs, László Parragh, president of the chamber, told economic news site Portfolio.
The proposal also includes the stipulation that if an employee decides not to get vaccinated, they could be transferred to a position where they don’t endanger their colleagues and clients.
The President of MKIK believes this regulation is justified not only on the basis of health concerns, but also dictated by economic logic: company leaders are afraid that the spread of the epidemic and local outbreaks could lead to the closure of their businesses, which they cannot afford again.
Parragh says companies expecting their employees to get vaccinated is already a common practice, as this is the only way to avoid having to shut down the economy again. In addition, even though firing someone for not getting vaccinated is illegal in Hungary according to the chamber president, those who refuse to get the jab are often being dismissed based on some other trumped-up reason.
Meanwhile, the president of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (MASSZ) finds the proposal concerning.
In a statement, László Kordás stated that the MASSZ is committed to preventing another possible intensive shutdown. However, he does not understand why the President of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the one making such a proposal.
The plan implies that anyone who refuses to be vaccinated on the orders of their boss can simply be legally fired from their jobs, the president of MASZSZ argued.
Furthermore, according to Kordás the issue was almost nonexistent in the past, as with the help of local trade unions, employers and employees were able to agree on the administering of vaccines in almost all workplaces.
In most places, employees who decided to get vaccinated were provided a day off but other solutions could work too.
Kordás, therefore, asks: “Aren’t these extra benefits the ones the president of MKIK wants to reserve for employers?”
“This seems to be the goal,” the president of MASZSZ himself responded to his own question.
There are a lot of questions to be clarified beyond whether legislation is needed at all, Kordás added. Among other things, it is extremely important to define the criteria on the basis of which employers can decide which jobs will be subject to the possible legislation.
The president, therefore, calls for an urgent meeting of the Permanent Consultative Forum of the Private Sector and the Government (VKF) and the National Civil Service Stakeholder Council (OKÉT).
In his regular weekly press briefing on Thursday, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office told reporters the government has yet to discuss the proposal of MKIK, adding that the government will have to address the issue.
Gergely Gulyás also added that the possibility of compulsory vaccination could be considered in particular in the service and hospitality sectors, and even in education, but examining the issue, would also be advised in general.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI