EI stands in solidarity with its member organisations and supports the Hungarian teachers' opposition to a recent amendment to the Act of Public Education.
The amendment increases the number of working hours without any increase in pay, thus forcing teachers to take on extra classes. It significantly worsens teachers'working conditions, thereby imposing a serious threat to the quality of education. The amendment also introduces tuition fees in state institutions for higher education. The amendment was adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 25 July, without any negotiation with teachers' unions. The teachers were merely consulted, but no meaningful negotiation took place. The act clearly aims to reduce education spending, and dimishes the status of teachers. If implemented - as it is still being considered by the Constitutional Court - the amendment would increase teachers' working hours by 10% at the secondary level and by 5% in elementary, without pay compensation. "For the school year 2006/2007, this would mean 10 000 unpaid teaching hours, which will lead to massive lay-offs," said Gabor Kerpen, the General Secretary of the PDSZ, one of EI's member organisations in Hungary. The amendment is part of the Hungarian Government's strategy to reduce its budget deficit, a policy promoted by the European Union and the World Bank. In September 2006, the World Bank's EU8 Quarterly Economic Report (EU8 stands for the eight new European Union members) argues for "structural reforms and government spending limitation, especially in public sectors, including education." The teachers' unions PDSZ and KPZZ have urged all Hungarians to take part in a street demonstration in Budapest on Friday, 13 October from 4 to 5pm. Kerpen emphasized that the demonstration is not a strike. "But," he added, "we want to mobilise not only the teachers, but also the parents and the whole community to prevent the devastating impact of the modified Act of Education". If the Government does not commit to open negotiations with all of the teachers' unions about the act within two weeks, they will be compelled to call for a strike, Kerpen said.