HUNGARY Historic Mobilisation of Teachers, Youth and Parents

Half a year after the local elections, a huge movement mobilising 30,000 to 40,000 teachers, together with students and parents, is underway. At the same time, a major strike of garbage collectors is taking place. 

Teachers have been demanding pay rises for years. Their salaries are far below the average salary of other professionals. Teachers are also demanding the right to strike (which has been severely restricted), improved working conditions and thus better-quality public education. 

Among hundreds of initiatives, one teacher’s open letter to the parents of his pupils reads: « We are not fighting for ourselves, but for your children. If it was only a question of money, we would not have gone into teaching, we would have worked as cashiers in a supermarket. We are on strike because we see that your children are not getting a proper education. This system is not good for them.” 

Under pressure from thousands of like-minded teachers, the leaders of the two largest teachers’ unions, PSZ and PDSZ, are beginning to come to their senses after a long period of lethargy and inaction. They have proposed the formation of a strike committee as soon as possible. 

Refusing to negotiate with the unions, the government representative said: « The government is waiting for the European Commission to take a decision on the financing of the wage increase”. This is classic demagogic rhetoric from Viktor Orban’s regime, which is always quick to denounce the European Commission… yet it implements all its anti-worker policies to the letter. The strike committee, for its part, rejected this argument, claiming that the government can pay the substantial wage increases immediately from the State budget, which, according to the strike committee, is the only thing to do. It denounced as « unacceptable » the government’s propaganda that « the left and Brussels are blocking pay rises for education workers ». 

The two unions also point to the very serious problems in education, and call for longer-term solutions, including ending the teacher shortage, reducing the workload, revising the national curriculum, modernising public education, etc. 

The dismissal of several teachers at the end of September for « illegal walkouts » has led to massive support from high school students for their teachers. Trade union confederations also support the teachers’ movement. Young people demonstrated with broad popular support on 5 October, showing that they do not intend to let their future be trampled by the current authorities. 

Judit Somi