Hungary passes controversial education law despite protest from education trade unions


Lawmakers in Hungary passed a controversial bill on 4 July 2023 affecting the country’s teachers. Education trade unions have said thousands of them will leave the profession when the law is passed. The bill was voted without adequate consultation with the trade unions. 

The new law is considered a retaliation as it cements a regime in public education that has caused months of protests and strikes by teachers and their students.

The new law changing the legal status of education workers will enter into force on January 1, 2024. 

The Hungarian teaching community was taken by surprise in March 2023 when the government presented a draft law outlining a new career path for public education workers. For a year and a half, the joint strike committee of the Trade Union of Teachers (PSZ-SEH), the biggest education trade union in Hungary, and the Democratic Trade Union of Teachers (PDSZ) had been negotiating with the Authorities about the deteriorating conditions of teaching professionals and other issues affecting public education. Teachers, students and parents had demonstrated together in numerous ways. The draft legislation, did not attempt to address any of the issues that the education trade unions had raised.

ETUCE expresses its unequivocal solidarity with its member organisations, the Trade Union of Teachers (PSZ), the Democratic Trade Union of Teachers (PDSZ), the Democratic Trade Union of Scientific Workers (TDDSZ) and the Trade Union of Employees in Higher Education (FDSZ) in their campaign for a revision of the new education law.

This legislation strips education workers of many of their entitlements. It introduces a new disciplinary regime involving the suspension of salary payments while extending the number of working hours. Furthermore, they could be punished or fired if they openly criticise the education system. In addition to that the law reduces the notice period for termination of employment contracts, extends the resignation notice, and introduces the concept of collective layoffs. 

ETUCE resolutely supports its member organisations in their demand to strengthen trade union rights in Hungary against the trend of diminishing them with mandatory thresholds on trade union organisation as a requirement for negotiations. Excluding education trade unions from professional consultations ignores the expertise and experience of workers on the ground who are represented by their trade unions. ETUCE reiterates that education trade unions have a dual role in representing the employment and social interests of education workers as well as the professional issues which are at the core and centre of the work of teaching professionals.

Hungary is one of the countries in the EU with the oldest teacher population and the highest teacher shortage. Teachers’ salaries are among the lowest in the European Union. Career starters’ net wage is hardly above €550 and reaches €1 100 after 40 years. “These kinds of reforms do not improve the attractiveness of the profession”, said the European Director, Susan Flocken, ”All they do is to further aggravate the situation. ETUCE confirms its strong support and solidarity with its Hungarian colleagues. Quality education depends on quality teachers. ETUCE calls on the government to consult and meet the education trade unions in a meaningful social dialogue to make positive changes. The Hungarian authorities should value this fundamental profession and invest more public funds into public education. After all, this concerns the Hungarian youth and the future of the country as a whole.”.