The opposition parties stand by wage hikes in the social sector and the employees’ right to strike, opposition politicians told a press conference after meeting representatives of the trade union of social sector workers (SZAD) and the public sector (MKKSZ) in Budapest on Tuesday.
At a joint press conference, representatives of nationalist Jobbik, MSZP (Socialists), the Democratic Coalition (DK), green LMP and Párbeszéd parties called the wages of social sector employees unacceptable and offered partnership to the unions.
LMP‘s Péter Ungár said that government parties had “fled” from the talks, although the “social sector is in a strike situation”.
Socialist lawmaker Lajos Korózs, head of parliament’s welfare committee, called it “unacceptable” that 80 percent of those working in the sector earn minimum wage or the skilled workers’ minimum, and offered the unions cooperation “so they can represent their interests with means other than parliamentary proposals”.
DK‘s Gergely Arató said the strike law makes staging a strike in the social sector “almost impossible”.
János Stummer of Jobbik said the five-party talks with unions were the start of a new era, laying the groundwork for “cooperation after a change of government”.
MKKSZ head Erzsébet Boros said that the sector’s employees have had enough of the “patronising” attitude of the ruling parties. At Monday’s talks, the government insisted that the sector provide full services during a strike. The government “denies the employees’ constitutional right to strike”, Boros said.
Ferenc Köves, the head of SZAD, said the 90,000 people working in the sector expected respectable wages and not “nice words”.
Human Resources Ministry: Gov’t Ready to Hold Talks with Social Sector Workers
In a statement, the ministry noted that the legal prerequisite for staging a strike was that the minimum services required by law are ensured. It added, however, that at the latest round of talks between government and union representatives, the proposal on minimum services put forward by the unions was “unacceptable” for the government. In the absence of an agreement, it falls to the court to determine the conditions of a strike, it added.
The statement said the government had taken a number of steps in recent years to improve the situation of social sector workers, noting that social sector wages have increased by an average of 84 percent since 2010.
The ministry said it was convinced that the matter would best be resolved through dialogue, rather than strikes or political clamor.
Ruling Fidesz in reaction slammed the behaviour of opposition parties as “hypocritical”, arguing that in the past they had never voted for any wage or subsidy increases for social sector workers. “The hypocritical opposition parties did not vote for a single subsidy or wage increase or tax break for workers in parliament in recent years, yet they are busy raising their own salaries in the local councils,” the party said in a statement.
“Once again, the left is only interested in power and money, rather than the situation of social workers, teachers or public sector workers,” the statement said. “They are trying to fire up leftist unions for the political schemes they are preparing.”
Featured photo illustration: demonstration during the social workers’ strike in March. Photo via MKKSZ’s Facebook page