Impasse over minimum wage persists; overtime demo ahead


Employers and unions failed to reach an agreement on next yearʼs minimum wage rises at a meeting on Thursday, according to a report by national news agency MTI. In related labor news, a major protest over planned legislation affecting overtime is planned by unions for the weekend.

Employers raised their earlier offer for increases in minimum wages for both skilled and unskilled workers from 5% to 8%, MTI cited pro-government daily Magyar Idők as reporting.

Zoltán Zs. Szőke, chairman of the National Federation of Consumer Co-operative Societies and Trade Associations (ÁFEOSZ-Coop), confirmed to MTI that unions did not accept the new offer.

Laszló Kordás, head of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (MASZSZ), told MTI that unions would only accept double-digit rises, proposing a 15% raise in the minimum wage for skilled workers and a 13% raise in the minimum wage for unskilled workers.

Minister of Finance Mihály Varga issued an ultimatum to the sides in November, saying the government would decide on next yearʼs minimum wage increases at the end of the year if employers and unions fail to come to an agreement on the matter.

A six-year agreement reached between the government, employers and unions late in 2016 specified minimum wage increases - paired with payroll tax cuts - for 2017 and 2018, but not for the years following.

The minimum monthly wages for skilled and unskilled workers are HUF 180,500 and HUF 138,000, respectively, at present.

Protest ahead against overtime rules

Relations between the government and unions began to sour recently after the announcement of a piece of legislation to increase the upper threshold of overtime from 250 to 400 hours per year. While some employers declared their support for the measure, even they argued that it should be merely an option, instead of making it mandatory.

Due to recent issues with what opposition critics have dubbed the "slavery law," several protests have been announced for the weekend. MASZSZ has called a demonstration in Budapest from 10 a.m. on Saturday, beginning at Jászai Mari tér and proceeding to Parliament on Kossuth tér.

"The Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (MASZSZ) calls for a major demonstration for December 8 inviting all workers to go on the street and protest: enough of the slavery law!" - reads the call published on the organizationʼs website. "Unions also call for real, meaningful social dialogue and condemn the way the legislative process is being misused again."

According to the news bulletin of television channel RTL Klub, the unions are also planning to block traffic in Veszprém today, and in Pécs on Monday to protest the changes.

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