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Municipal civil servants to strike for higher wages

Municipal civil servants are planning a one-day strike in September to demand higher pay, reports Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet. The newspaper says Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár is no longer meeting with the unions.

In June, municipal employees held a two-hour strike to seek salary increases of 30 percent on average. The failure of this action has now prompted the full-day strike.

Mrs. Péter Boros, president of the Union for Civil Servants, Public Employees, and Public Service Providers, expects to set a date for the stoppage soon.

Boros said the union will try to find a date that does not interfere with the government’s anti-EU refugee quota referendum on October 2.

According to Boros, the workers want their raises by October, which means the strike would have to be in September.

Among the concerns raised by the union are issues arising from discrepancies between the duties of local and national civil servants.

Boros told Magyar Nemzet that the union had forwarded its concerns and proposals to the appropriate authorities, but still has not received a response from Antal Rogán, Minister of the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister.

Earlier, Lázár had announced meetings between himself and a union representing civil servants, but Prime Minister Viktor Orbán eventually assigned the responsibility of dealing with the unions to Rogán.

Realistically, the union only expects to meet with the government again after August 20, Boros says.

In June, some 4,700 municipal civil servants held the two-hour strike to protest that county and regional national government offices would be receiving a raise, while they themselves would not. In many cases, municipal civil servants with 25-30 years on the job earn only HUF 90-100,000 per month (USD 315-350).

Initially, the national government countered the demands by saying municipal civil servants were not employees of the national government. It was only after the two-hour strike that Lázár said there are cases in which increased salaries are warranted. The minister called for meetings to take place but nothing ever happened.

The salaries of public employees, including those working in education and medicine, have become a hot issue for the Orbán government. Numerous protests throughout 2015 and 2016 to raise awareness of the poor salaries and working conditions of public employees have reportedly prompted a confederation of Hungarian unions to start talking about hosting a massive demonstration on October 7.

László Kordás, president of the Hungarian Association of Unions, recently told Klubrádió that the best way to apply pressure on the government is for thousands to take to the streets in protest, rather than hundreds.

Benjamin Novak :