Tens of Thousands Join Teachers' Protest in Budapest
Photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI
Tens of thousands of people attended a large-scale demonstration in Budapest yesterday, demanding higher wages and better working wages for teachers, according to a report by Telex.hu.
The crowds gathered in Kálvin tér in the afternoon and then marched to Műegyetem rakpart, where students, teachers, and representatives of a wide range of trade unions spoke. The opposition parties - with the exception of the right-wing Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland) - did not organize separate demonstrations on Sunday because they did not want to weaken the teachers' demonstration, but asked their supporters to join the rally.
The first speaker at the demonstration, organized by the Adom Student Movement and the Democratic Trade Union of Teachers, was the Mayor of Budapest. Gergely Karácsony said that the dismantling of Hungarian education started with taking schools away from the communities and continued with taking away the free choice of textbooks.
Fruzsina Schermann, president of the Adom Student Movement, said she believed there were more than 50,000 people at the demonstration. "We are ignored by an oppressive power (...), but we will not forget their arrogance", she said, "and we will make sure that the country does not forget us".
She then listed the demands of the movement:
"Invalidate the dismissal letter of the unjustly fired teachers!"
"Guarantee the teachers' pay rise!"
"Stop the intimidation and the smear campaign!"
"Work for a more honest and more solidary Hungary!"
Erzsébet Nagy, a member of the Democratic Trade Union of Teachers (PDSZ), said that not only teachers but also members of other social groups have come to the point where they have to decide between buying food or switching on the heating.
She then read out the organization's 18-point list of demands. These included overtime pay, wage compensation, the reinstatement of the civil servant status for those working in vocational training, and an amendment to the law on strikes. In addition to these demands, the organization called for 21st-century conditions in education, a modern national curriculum, and free choice of textbooks.
Zsuzsa Szabó, president of the Teachers' Trade Union (PSZ), said, "The Hungarian government does not understand that teachers starting their careers cannot live on their salaries. They are paid a total of EUR 500 net, and the financial institutions won't even give them a loan."
She noted that the government blaming Brussels and left-wing politics is not a legitimate answer to their demands. Some16,000 teachers are missing from nurseries and schools, she said.
Orbán Marks Anniversary of 1956 Revolution Far Away from Capital
October 23 marked the 66th anniversary of the 1956 uprising against Soviet oppression in Hungary. While the governing coalition did not hold a large-scale celebration in Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke at a smaller event in Zalaegerszeg, at the inauguration of a visitors' center dedicated to József Mindszenty.
According to a report by the Associated Press, the PM made veiled comparisons yesterday between EU institutions and the Soviet troops that attacked Hungary during the 1956 revolution. Orbán suggested that the EU, which has sought to rein in democratic backsliding in Hungary, would end up like the Soviet Union.
"Let's not bother with those who shoot at Hungary from the shadows or from the heights of Brussels. They will end up where their predecessors did," the AP quoted Orbán saying in his speech.
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