Hungarian teachers to strike in March if demands not met

February 1, 2016

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“Education is not only an issue for teachers.  Education is a public issue. Hungarian public education is an issue for Hungarian society.” – Mrs. István Galló, president, Teachers Trade Union (PSZ)

Teachers Trade Union (PSZ) president Mrs. István Galló announced at a press conference today that teachers from all over the country would demonstrate in Budapest February 13 and  may strike in March unless there is a rollback of educational reform introduced under the second and third Orbán governments (see 25 demands below).

Galló said Minister for Human Resources Zoltán Balog had informed her on Friday that, while the government was willing to participate in roundtable negotiations, it does not wish to make any systematic changes to education.  She denied pro-government media reports that PSZ had agreed to participate in public education roundtable discussions with the ministry.

Monday’s press conference followed Saturday’s announcement by the National Conference of Teachers Faculties (OTÉ) that “we consider illegitimate the Education Roundtable created by Zoltán Balog which does not represent the affected parties,” adding that “at Zoltán Balog’s instructions the KLIK (Klebelsberg Institution Maintenance Center) has cynically convoked teachers forums in the educational districts for the time of the Miskolc demonstration” on Wednesday, February 3.

Galló said the time for roundtable discussions should have been before the government started changing public education, and the ministry was merely “putting out fires”. She called the offer to temporarily supplement the wages of some 50,000 teachers “insulting”.

Galló told the press conference that teachers were embittered and many favored going on strike rather than demonstrating, but it was necessary to “follow each step”. If the demonstration yielded no results and the government was not willing to change the system, then there was no alternative to striking even though the current strike law greatly complicated the organization of work interruptions.

She said instructions issued by the ministry to the educational districts were a delay tactic.  “I don’t think the ministry doesn’t know what the problem is.  Why didn’t they ask us before?  They sense that the problem is big but I believe these colleagues will not ameliorate the problem.”

“A political trick”

Hungary’s second teachers’ trade union, the Teachers’ Democratic Trade Union led by László Mendrey, called on Monday for a boycott of the educational roundtable until every interested and affected party was invited, calling it a “political trick” to try to divide teachers.  He said no responsible organizations should participate.

Mendrey told the Beacon that he anticipated his organization participating in the demonstration on the 13th.

25 demands

The PSZ strike committee has formulated the following 25 demands:

  1. Minimum school leaving age to be raised back to 18.  Elimination of the “Bridge” programs.
  2. A radical decrease to the curriculum based on a thorough review.
  3. A significant decrease in the number of obligatory lessons.
  4. An elimination of the requirement that children be kept in primary school until 4 pm.
  5. At the request of parents, the school must provide a supervised afternoon study hall for students.
  6. A restoration of the National Educational Council and the Public Education Policy Council. No future laws to be enacted without first consulting the councils and the affected parties.
  7. The system of state inspections to be separated from that of institutional inspections.
  8. The rights of the employer and the right to make economic decisions to be returned to the heads of institutions.
  9. The situation of technical training centers to be regulated by law.
  10. The preparation of realistic budgets that take into consideration wages, operating costs and development costs, plus individual budgets for different institutions.
  11. Public education law to define the basis for determining the number of teachers and the funded timeframe based on 22 lessons a week and an average class size.
  12. Public education law to prescribe a deadline for advertising and filling empty positions, including temporary ones (such as teachers taking maternity leave).
  13. The restoration of the number of lessons a week to 22.  Teachers to be paid on an hourly basis for additional lessons.
  14. The elimination of fixed working hours.  The employer should have the right to determine when teachers must be at school.
  15. Teachers serving as class principal or work society director or helping the student government to be allowed to teach two fewer lessons a week.
  16. The definition of differential wage supplements.
  17. The restoration of the wage supplement for quality work and tasks relating to this.
  18. The introduction of new wage supplements for those who do not fall under the teacher career model.
  19. An end to the state monopoly on textbooks and a restoration of freedom on the part of teachers to choose their textbook.
  20. The revocation of the requirement that teachers retire upon reaching retirement age.
  21. The government decree regulating employment to be modified to include collective agreements not only for institutions maintained by KLIK, but all public educational institutions.
  22. A radical reduction to teachers’ administrative burdens and the amount of information they must provide.
  23. A modification to the public education law so as to rule out replacing teachers and school administrators with public work scheme employees (earning less than minimum wage-ed.)
  24. The elimination of superfluous responsibilities entrusted to the Educational Authority, which is to remain an independent body.  The restoration of the teachers institutes.
  25. The preservation of the Educational Research and Development Institute.  The right of maintenance to be transferable to high institutions of learning.