European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Strikes in Hungary: background summary

There is a constitutional right to strike in Hungary. The detailed rules are set out in ‘Act 7 of 1989’ on the right to strike. The significant amendment of the Strike Act in 2010 fundamentally changed the regulation of minimum services. This amendment can jeopardize this fundamental right and it was strongly opposed by trade unions.

  • There is a right to strike in Hungary. Article XVII.(2) of the Basic Law (Constitution) guarantees the right to strike: ‘Employees, employers and their organisations shall have the right, as provided for by an Act, to negotiate with each other and conclude collective agreements, and to take collective action to defend their interests, including the right of workers to discontinue work.’
  • The detailed provisions on strikes are stipulated by a separate law, Act 7 of 1989 on strike and not in the Labour Code. Therefore, the new Labour Code does not have any effect on strike regulation.
  • At the same time there has been one significant amendment to the law on strike action, namely the regulation of the minimum services in 2010. Accordingly, minimum services must be ensured by employers who provide public services, such as public transport, communications, electricity, water supply etc.
  • This minimum level may be regulated by law; otherwise the parties must agree on it, or the court may decide on the details of the minimum level. This means that the most active trade unions may go on strike only after the decision of the court on minimum services, since an agreement is impossible in practice.
  • There are only two fields where the law defines minimum services: postal services and public transport.
  • There has been only one strike following the above rules on minimum services since this amendment in December 2010. Before the above amendment there were three to four such strikes per year. In practice, general strikes are quite rare. Between 1989 and 2014 there were 874 industrial actions in Hungary: strikes, solidarity strikes, demonstrations, petitions, and even seven hunger strikes.
  • Of this number, there were only 270 strikes in 25 years; around 10 strikes per year. 70% of the strikes were successful but only 30% of the demonstrations reached their purpose. Altogether, these 270 strikes involved half a million participants and resulted in 11 minutes of lost working time per person. The number of strikes is decreasing, especially after the 2010 amendment on minimum services.