January 15th, 2013

Teachers’ group threatens solo strike if union allies cave in to government

Budapest, January 15 (MTI) – Teachers’ union PDSZ is ready to strike on its own if a multi-union strike committee goes soft on teachers’ original demands, László Mendrey, the union’s leader, said on Tuesday.

Mendrey said the PDSZ feels unions have “bent over backwards” to seek an agreement, and teachers are unhappy with the current situation. If the government fails to meet their demands by Friday, and other unions want to back down from a strike, the PDSZ is ready to call a work boycott on its own, Mendrey said.

He said the PDSZ is interested in cooperating with other unions but it is unhappy that the strike committee had not yet reached a decision on whether or not to strike. A court ruling is also still pending on the minimum level of services required if action is called, he added.

Mendrey said a possible strike would start in mid-February and it could be a few hours or several days long.

The PDSZ board voted with an 80 percent majority to reject the government’s proposal to the strike committee, Mendrey said.

He added that the main goal was to save teachers’ jobs, and this hinged on mandatory weekly teaching hours which they want to cap at 22 hours. The PDSZ also finds it unacceptable that the government had rejected wage-hike proposals at all levels, he said. The PDSZ demands a 20 percent wage hike across the board for public employees.

The PDSZ published the government’s five-page proposal on its website on Monday.

According to unconfirmed reports, the education state secretary wants to wait for the court ruling on the minimum level of services required in the case of a strike and hold the next round of talks only after.

The state secretariat for education told MTI on Tuesday that it would not change its negotiation strategy with teachers in light of the PDSZ’s announcement. It said in a statement that the state secretariat had worked with teachers’ unions to reach agreement throughout negotiations.

It appears the PDSZ, “a non-representative interest group with only 3,533 members,” wants to strike instead of reaching an agreement, the statement said. It is not good sportsmanship to voice final results in the middle of negotiations. All interest groups should strive at reaching agreement instead of stirring a political hype, it added.

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