Hungarian trade unions protest plans to force education personnel off public sector contracts

16 April 2020

The COVID 19 outbreak is a public health crisis quite different than anything Europe has faced for many years. As education personnel and their trade unions grapple with the outbreak, we are supporting and informing member organisations in any way we can.

Despite the COVID-19 shutdown and its grave consequences for the economy and labour market, the Hungarian government is pushing ahead with a destabilising liberalisation of vocational and technical education. More than 30000 teachers in these sectors will lose their status as public sector employees. Now the government has announced similar plans for workers in cultural institutions such as museums and libraries taking away their public services status

Hungary is likely to see a huge increase in unemployment. With hundreds of thousands needing support in the search for a new job, vocational education and training (VET) will have a vital role to play. Stable public VET institutions will be especially necessary because the country’s capacity for workplace-based training and apprenticeships would suffer in the event of a private sector collapse. In this context, ETUCE member organisation PSZ (Teacher Union of Hungary) insists "it would be good to reinforce the network of public schools”.

Meanwhile, the government gave PDSZ (Teachers' Democratic Union of Hungary) only three days’ notice before announcing their plans to impose a similar change on workers in cultural institutions. Those three days were over the Easter weekend. Workers in archives, public libraries, museums and performing arts organisations will lose their status as public sector employees and be moved onto more precarious contracts under the general labour code according to PDSZ. ETUCE member organisation PDSZ says “it is paramount to stop this proposal” and calls for support from the international trade union movement.

In Hungary’s mainstream education sector, schools remain closed. PSZ is in consultations with the government in the hope of developing plans that will allow students to complete the academic year and take exams. However, any reopening must be done with utmost respect for health and safety, and authorities must take measures to ensure fair chances for all if exams do ultimately go ahead.

Image by Jo Stolp from Pixabay