“This is done by presenting a draft law whose justification does not reflect reality and which imposes an additional administrative burden both on workers and the organisations representing them,” highlight the signatories, the Intellectual Trade Union Confederation (Értelmiségi Szakszervezeti Tömörülés, ÉSZT), the Democratic League of Independent Trade Unions (Független Szakszervezetek Demokratikus Ligája), the Seventh Confederation (Hetedik Szövetség), the Forum for Cooperation of Trade Unions (Szakszervezetek Együttműködési Fóruma, SZEF), the National Federation of Workers’ Councils (Munkástanácsok Országos Szövetsége), and the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (Magyar Szakszervezeti Szövetség, MASZSZ).
“Unfortunately, the human and civil liberties of government and public service officials, teachers, civil servants, tax officials, health workers, etc. are subject to restrictions, so it is much more difficult to enforce their rights and to protect their material and social interests than those of other ordinary citizens. Trade union membership is therefore almost the only way for them to collectively assert their interests,” they add. We contacted Csaba Csóti, president of the Forum for Cooperation of Trade Unions, who told us, “the online consultation – called ‘social consultation’ – was followed by protests, actions, statements and professional arguments. But all that did not prompt the government to abandon their goal – instead, they added a much stronger ban to the text.”
As reported by Mérce, the latest version of the government’s proposed amendment submitted to the Parliament categorically prohibits employers to participate in or facilitate in any way the payment of union dues of public employees.
Under the government’s first proposal, which cites the need to simplify the operations of the state, union members would have to pay their dues directly from January 2024. Until now, 1 per cent of the workers’ wage (the trade union membership fee) was deducted from their pay automatically and free of charge by the employer. Thus, workers had nothing else to do to pay their dues and the employer automatically issued a certificate of payment, which was also included in the tax return as a tax deduction.
A general debate on the omnibus bill “on provisions related to further simplification of the functioning of the state” was held in Parliament on September 26, and its adoption could take place at the end of October.
In their statement, the trade unions write it is particularly sad that the National Civil Service Interest Reconciliation Council (OKÉT) has not been convened despite the fact that the workers’ side requested a consultation on the planned sale of the properties used by government agencies for social, recreational and educational purposes. They also highlight that by failing to hold a consultation, the government refuses to jointly assess the wage situation over the entire public sector and to work on solution proposals.
“OKÉT is the statutory forum for consultation between the national unions and the government, but it has not been convened since June. Meanwhile, the Standing Consultative Forum Between the Private Sector and the Government (Versenyszféra és a Kormány Állandó Konzultációs Fóruma, VKF) has been convened, and the trade union federations raised the issue of the payment of public employee dues, however, the government representatives replied that they were not competent in that matter,” informed us Csaba Csóti.
As the trade union confederations recall in their statement, the European Social Charter stipulates that the parties undertake that national laws shall not, either in themselves or through their application, restrict the freedom of association for workers. Moreover, convention 154 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) explicitly states that measures must be taken to promote collective bargaining in order to strengthen the importance of dialogue in the states ratifying the Convention.
Csaba Csóti added that, following the adoption of the law, they will try to challenge it in national and international forums.
With regard to the above-mentioned issues, the workers’ side expresses its concerns about the processes of social dialogue in Hungary. In a joint declaration, they stipulate the explicit demand that the system of reconciliation in Hungary be maintained and strengthened through a substantive and meaningful dialogue, in line with European standards. Consequently, the day when the law is adopted without consultation will be declared a day of mourning for Hungarian social dialogue.