Teachers’ trade union PSZ held a demonstration in Budapest on Saturday, with support from other teachers’ unions, demanding higher wages and a reduction of the burden on teachers.
Participants who gathered in front of the Parliament called for pay hikes, reducing the number of teachers’ working hours, support for those starting their career in education, the withdrawal of the regulation on the compulsory schooling of six-year-olds and the withdrawal of the act on vocational education.
Addressing the protesters, PSZ leader Zsuzsa Szabó said that if the government fails to meet their demands, the union will call a nationwide teachers’ strike in January.
PSZ leader Zsuzsa Szabó and PDSZ leader Tamás Szűcs. Photo by Márton Mónus/MTI
Prior to the demonstration, a petition containing the demands was handed over to representatives of the ministry of human resources and the ministry of innovation and technology.
The opposition LMP has expressed solidarity with the teachers and support for the demonstration. Secretary of the national board Máté Kanász-Nagy said teachers have to repeatedly protest because the education sector is still in crisis and faces pressing problems.
In response to the demonstration, the ministry of human resources said in a statement that the ministry had been open to the negotiations, which had been ongoing for several months, and remains open and ready for consultation on further wage demands.
The ministry added that the teachers are not demonstrating against the government but for higher wages, therefore they consider it outrageous that the opposition parties are exploiting the opportunity for their own political goals.
The ruling Fidesz party also issued a statement, saying that the opposition and the network of George Soros exploiting the teachers’ demonstration are only interested in coming to power rather than the fate of teachers, and their real aim is to replace Hungary’s anti-immigration government.
Trade union: Education policy marred by lack of social dialogue
Hungary’s education policy is marred by centralisation and a lack of social dialogue, the head of the Democratic Union of Teachers (PDSZ) told the closing event of a protest held under the slogan “Free Education!” late on Sunday.
Tamás Szűcs told the event held at the square in front of Parliament that manual control, centralisation, the arrogance of power and the lack of social dialogue characterised the country’s education policy. “Parliament is passing everything like a road roller”, he said citing a recent amendment to the law on vocational education. “There is no other possibility left but to protest,” he added.
If necessary the trade union will use new methods, such as civil disobedience, Szűcs said.
Alternative Classes Held during ‘National Student Strike’
Budapest’s new mayor Gergely Karácsony told the event that Hungary’s education system was based on a lack of trust because the government, in fear of losing power, wants to turn pupils into “subjects”. At the recent local elections Budapest residents expressed their wish that they want to regain control over their city, he said.
He promised to launch new schemes in cooperation with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, scholarships to disadvantaged students and cooperation to all that want Budapest to become “a hub for knowledge-based development”.
The Free Education! protest was held between Friday to Sunday and was addressed by representatives of the organisers as well as opposition local council leader.
Featured photo by Márton Mónus/MTI