Hungarian workers facing a rights-less nightmare
A rights-less future faces Hungarian workers under a new draft labour law, according to LIGA, one of six union confederations in the country. They showed the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Council meeting in October a campaign video showing Hungarian workers’ nightmares: nightmares that could come true if the law is not stopped.
Hungarian workers have already suffered a sustained attack from the right-wing Fidesz Government which is slashing rights, reducing wages and undermining unions without reason. Like the UK government, some politicians in Europe believe in austerity and the small state regardless of IMF or ECB demands.
LIGA have enumerated 23 ways in which the draft labour code – which they have asked the ILO to examine – would harm workers, but they say “almost every clause of the draft code would make things worse”. The draft would reverse the burden of proof in unfair dismissal cases; remove protection against dismissal from workers on sick leave or maternity leave; working time will go up and leave will be cut; automatic overtime rates will cease; minimum wages will ‘probably’ disappear and will certainly not be set with union involvement; workplace information and consultation rights will be reduced; and the right to be represented by a union in collective bargaining or in court will be restricted.
Even before the draft code was published, the Government had reclassified many public sector workers as ‘government officials’ to reduce their rights; replaced progressive taxes and tax credits with a flat tax that benefits the rich while penalising the poor; and required minimum service conditions in strikes affecting so-called essential services. These changes have been effected without consultation or adequate parliamentary scrutiny, and unions have fought running battles in the courts where changes have often been ruled unlawful.
Claiming to support ‘restructuring’ rather than ‘austerity’, the Government has reduced the duration of unemployment and made more than a quarter of a million unemployed work for little more than their benefits. Pensions are gradually being whittled away.
This is the nightmare – some of it already come true – that faces European workers under the neoliberal post-crisis fightback.