Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Hungary

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Hungary, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea6620732.html [accessed 20 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 10,000,000
Capital: Budapest
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Consultation with the social partners has been almost completely neglected by the new centre-right government, which has a large majority in parliament. Several violations have been reported from multinational companies. There remain many restrictions on the right to strike.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Despite a fairly solid legal framework, some problematic areas exist. The Constitution and the Labour Code recognise the right to organise, and the right to collective bargaining is also secured. However, the thresholds for unions to be recognised as bargaining agents are excessively high. Many public sector workers are exempted from the right to bargain collectively, and the final decision on increasing public service pay rests in any case with Parliament.

The right to strike is excessively restricted in the law. Employers and employees must cooperate during strikes, and "abuse of the right to strike" is prohibited. With the amendment on 31 December 2010 of Act VII of 1989 on strikes, a strike that runs counter to these vague provisions is now unlawful. Furthermore, the right is restricted for public sector workers, as a strike can only be exercised in accordance with special regulations contained in an agreement signed between the government and public sector unions in 1994. While employers are not allowed to hire temporary workers during a strike, temporary workers already hired before the strike are allowed to continue working.

A process to modify the Constitution was initiated in 2010, but the social partners were not invited to participate. Contrary to the present Constitution, the new draft contains no reference to trade union rights.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: With the economy in poor shape, a major political change took place in April 2010 when the conservative centre-right party Fidesz won the country's general election by a landslide, removing the socialist party from office. With a two-thirds majority in parliament Fidesz has sought to make many big changes.

Protection in court cumbersome: The National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions MSZOSZ reports that if a trade union refuses to agree to a shop steward's dismissal, and the employer appeals against this in court, defending the trade union position becomes very difficult. A 2005 amendment to the Labour Code eased the trade union's burden of proof, but it has not yet resulted in more effective protection of trade union officials.

Neglect of social dialogue damages industrial relations: In parallel to the changes to the law on the right to strike, which were adopted in just one week by the Hungarian Parliament following an initiative by an individual MP, it should be further noted that there had been no previous consultation with the social partners. The institutions of social dialogue have been neglected by the new government in other matters as well: it failed to convene the National Interest Reconciliation Council for more than half a year and in a questionable manner – using individual MPs' motions as a basis for action – it amended other laws concerning workers' rights without any consultation.

Tyre manufacturer fined for obstructing union activity: The Hungarian Labour Inspectorate levied a fine on the Hankook Tyre Magyaroszag Kft. for obstructing the duties and activities of a branch of the Federation of Chemical, Energy, and General Workers' Unions (VDSZ). Although the fine was small in monetary terms, it was significant in the fact that Hankook, at its growing tyre factory in Dunaujvaros, was again proven to be unwilling to accept a trade union. The violation comes on top of the company's poor record; it had earlier fought recognition of the union at the factory and dismissed union activists.

Tesco hinder trade union activities: At Tesco Global Zrt. the employer has continued to hinder the activities of the Independent Trade Union of Commercial Workers (Kereskedelmi Dolgozók Független Szakszervezete). In the summer of 2010, the employer unilaterally terminated the employment of two trade union officers within a few days. The trade union's president and a leading officer were let go after they had informed an employee of the legal opportunities available to him regarding compensation from the employer after suffering a car accident. The employer declared this behaviour anti-employer and unethical, and terminated the unionists' employment contracts. There is an ongoing labour law trial related to this case. Another officer of the same trade union (who had a leading position at the company) was practically banned from all the premises of Tesco Global Zrt. after carrying out trade union activities.

Airline discriminates against union officer: The contract of an officer in the United Trade Union of Aviation was not renewed by Malev GH because of his union activities. Although he had all the necessary qualifications, his wages were reduced by downgrading his position. The company argued that "the representative was too active in the area of interest representation". This argument backfired with the Equal Treatment Authority, which after a lengthy process decided against Malév GH and ordered the company to pay HUF one million for discriminating against the trade union officer.

Anti-union tactics used by Bridgestone: Continued obstruction of union activity at the Bridgestone tyre manufacturers has been reported by the Rubber Workers Trade Union in Tatabánya. Manoeuvres surrounding elections to the Works Council resulted in the election of only management representatives. Management seeks to provoke conflicts between the union and the works council, and only consults the works council. Approaches and letters from the union tend to go unanswered, and the local union president is not permitted even to bring his own laptop to the factory. Negotiations with the local union are also rejected by management.

Union officer let go at Elektrolux: The employment contract of an officer of the Independent Trade Union of Refrigerator Makers was terminated by Elektrolux Kft. by means of dismissal with immediate effect. The circumstances of the case suggest that the reason behind the dismissal was the officer's trade union activity – employees had granted him the right to represent them against the employer in a case relating to working time and annual leave.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld

Countries