The strike

The strike continues and most likely will still be on tomorrow. Daily the two sides get together, but since neither side is willing to change its positition these daily gatherings seem pretty useless. The information concerning the real situation is murky: MÁV says that the number of striking workers is decreasing, while István Gaskó says exactly the opposite. Moreover, he vaguely talks about support coming from other trade unions at home and abroad. At the same time, the other trade union leaders at MÁV consider Gaskó irresponsible and disapprove of his behavior.

MÁV is convinced that the strike is illegal, and management has already turned to the courts for help. Within five days there ought to be a ruling on its legality. The government received some help from the powerful National Association of Enterpreneurs and Employers (Vállalkozók és Munkáltatók Országos Szövetsége) whose secretary general, Ferenc Dávid, announced this afternoon that he considers the strike injurious not only to MÁV but to the Hungarian economy and called upon Gaskó’s trade union to call off the strike. At the same time, he asked the Hungarian government to change the rather "loose" Hungarian strike law ( 1989) in order to prevent other similar semi-illegal activities.

What I found most compelling in Ferenc Dávid’s argumentation was the following. There is a group (Érdekegyeztető Tanács) whose job it is to hammer out an equitable compromise on salaries every year. On this council there are representatives of the government, the employers, and the employees. Gaskó was one of the delegates at the meeting and signed the document. He has now reneged on the agreement he endorsed.

In the meantime the minister in charge of the railroads has made it clear that he is convinced that Gaskó is actually the Hungarian opposition’s man and that their plan is to keep up the strike until the very day of the referendum, that is until March 9. At least half of the Hungarian public thinks the same. Whether the striking workers are willing to follow their leader for that long, I’m not sure because, it seems, the workers will not see any money from the strike fund until the strike ends. The trade union leaders promised them 500 Ft per hour, but if I were one of the workers I would be a bit suspicious of Mr. Gaskó”s promises.