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Firefighters, Teachers Angered After Commerce Chamber President’s Controversial Statement

Hungary Today 2022.05.30.

Both firefighters and teachers’ earn notoriously low salaries, and it is especially the latter group which has long been urging the government to settle the issue, without success. Recently, the head of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, László Parragh, was the one to add fuel to the fire with a controversial statement doubting the authenticity of their demands. Both unions are angered, a firefighter even speculated that he should leave office right away.

As we previously reported, the growing shortage of young teachers has been confirmed several times, as have the notoriously low salaries for teachers. Lately, relevant trade unions engaged in several awareness campaigns and strikes in order to settle the situation. Amid some moderate promises, instead of addressing the issue for now, the Fidesz government additionally decided to largely restrict teachers’ right to strike, something that has been facing controversies and protests ever since.

Lately, the president of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who is known to be in a close relationship with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, had a say on the issue.

“Hungary has a very high employment rate, which shows that the state’s “silent” presence is useful in this area. But there are many motivations: teachers have the summer off, they can go home at 4 pm. It is different for each profession. A fireman may be motivated by social esteem and the adrenaline rush. Of course, the empty cash register rings out the same for everyone, so some kind of balance has to be struck by the government,” László Parragh said in an interview with left-wing daily Népszava.

Firefighters’ union: “a meaningless statement” instead of badly wanted measures

His words, however led to harsh criticism against the highly-ranked official. “We need a significant pay raise and a forward-looking new career model. The social image of firefighters has not changed, we are still at the top of the reliability polls, but we get nothing in the shops for this and our colleagues have to supplement their earnings with second jobs,” the president of the Firefighters’ Independent Trade Union (HTFSZ) said.

László Salamon recalled that the possibility of a service pension used to be an important factor in their esteem, but this was taken away.

“As for the adrenaline rush, we are puzzled by Mr Parragh’s statement. This should be a basis for early retirement, as working at high adrenaline levels has quite seriously adverse health effects,” he said.

He also speculated that

“after all this, everyone would understand if Mr Parragh would retire from public life amidst a flurry of apologies.”

He concluded by saying that instead of making meaningless statements, a series of measures would be needed to make the profession attractive and predictable, and to keep current staff on the field. He indicated that the trade unions were open to negotiations.

Teachers’ union: “a high level of ignorance”

Vice-president of the Teachers’ Union (PSZ) also condemned Parragh’s words. Tamás Totyik explained that Parragh was wrong to think that teachers had a whole summer holiday. The school year ends for teachers in the first week of July, and they have to go to work after 20 August. The time in between is not all rest and relaxation either, with many teachers going on camps, preparing curricula and taking part in catch-up programs, often to the expense of their own time off.

Teachers’ Union to Take All Legal Steps to Defend Right to Strike
Teachers’ Union to Take All Legal Steps to Defend Right to Strike

The union, which held a congress on May 27 and 28, decided to uphold its strike demands and continue legal procedures to protect the right to strike.Continue reading

“Teachers are not even allowed to take days off during the school year, only with special permission and justification, which they don’t get in many cases even if they ask for it. Mr Parragh’s statement shows a high level of ignorance,” he concluded.

featured image via Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI

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