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BKV workers set to strike for 8 days in April

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Workers of the Budapest Transport Company (BKV) will begin a three-day strike from midnight on April 18, two major trade unions announced today, according to media reports. Plans call for the three-day strike to be followed by a five-day strike from April 24.

The two union groupings, the Federation of Public Service Trade Unions (KKSZSZ) and the Federation of Urban Public Transport Workersʼ Trade Unions (VTDSZSZ), announced the strike after receiving no substantial wage increase offer at negotiations with BKV management. The unions are seeking a 30% wage rise similar to that granted to workers at other state-owned enterprises, spread over three years.

During the strike, there will be hours when no vehicles will run at all, except for subcontracted bus services, according to online news portal index.hu, noting that the unions will exploit loopholes in the regulations on the provision of minimum adequate services.

Under the law, 60% of services must be operated every hour and along every route on the first day of a strike. On the second day, the 60% applies only as an average over the entire day, so that the stoppages can be arranged in such a way that no vehicles will run at all at certain selected times.

Many bus routes will remain unaffected by the strike, being operated by VT-Arriva or other subcontractors.  HÉV suburban railway trains will also continue to run, having been incorporated last year into Hungarian Railways (MÁV), where workers have already received the 30% wage hike for state workers.

Transport struggles with recruitment

According to a letter sent to BKV by the unions, some 10% of the 9,600 employees of the transport company left in 2016 (a good third of these entering retirement). Shortages have consequently arisen among engineers, skilled workers and drivers, meaning that the firm would need to hire more than 1,000 new workers in 2017, the unions claim.

The unions see wage hikes as the only solution to the difficulty of recruiting new employees. They warn that without competitive wages, fewer vehicles will be able to run due to labor shortages, while disruptions may occur in maintenance and traffic circulation.

The BKV had acknowledged the strike announcement as of time of reporting, with management releasing a statement calling on leaders of interest representation groups to begin talks on guaranteeing adequate services as soon as possible.

The BKV management stressed that they remain committed to providing the necessary wage rises, and will do all they can to ensure that the strike can be avoided, adding that the Budapest city government, as owner, has turned to the government to create the necessary funding.

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