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COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level responses

Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case HU-2020-31/1268 – measures in Hungary

Collective agreement changes during COVID-19

Változások a kollektív szerződésekben a koronavírus járvány miat

Country Hungary , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 01 August 2020
Type Bipartite collective agreements
Category Supporting businesses to stay afloat
– Other
Author Nóra Krokovay (KOPINT-Tárki) and Eurofound
Case created 08 October 2020 (updated 09 October 2020)

Background information

Several large companies were reported to have terminated their collective agreements due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Consequences included pay postponed to workers, layoffs or workers allegedly pressured into short-time work contracts. Other companies where similar weakening of collective agreement protections reportedly happened in Hungary were General Electric and tyre maker Michelin.

Content of measure

Steel maker Dunaferr reportedly terminated their collective agreement in August 2020, the Hungarian Alliance of Trade Unions (MASZSZ) said. The MASZSZ member Vasas trade union tried to re-establish talks regarding the terminated collective agreements, but with no success. Press reports said Dunaferr had not paid part of workers’ wages in September, citing COVID-19 losses as the reason.

At tyre maker Continental the collective agreement was terminated after workers were “tricked” and fired at its Makó (south Hungary) plant, the tyre industry trade union GSZSZ claimed.In other places, like General Electrics and tyre maker Michelin, the collective agreements were “suspended with guarantees”, trade unionists said.

Use of measure

Terminating collective agreements allows the employer to take measures at the company without consulting employee representatives and it also ends practices like paying certain bonuses or non-wage compensation, or observing special rules about sick pay and leave. The stipulations of the Hungarian Labour Code, amended in 2012, prevails when no collective agreement exists.

Contents

  • Employment retention
  • Income protection

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Larger corporations
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
Company / Companies
No special funding required

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Informed No involvement
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Company level

Involvement

At Dunaferr the trade union Vasas threatened to go on strike to re-establish what they called “crushed” industrial relations at the company. At Continental the trade union initiated talks but their proposals were not heard, according to the the TU representatives. At several plants they began to collect money for a solidarity fund for fired workers.

Views and reactions

The MASZSZ member Vasas trade union tried to re-establish talks regarding the terminated collective agreements in a letter to the management sent on September 22. The trade union has threatened to go on strike if their demands were not met. At Continental, the employer allegedly convinced workers to sign voluntary agreements on reducing their worktime and pay, promising that this would protect them from being laid off, the trade union said. The employer said they were doing all to keep people on at the Makó plant (south Hungary) and that 95% of workers voluntarily accepted the worktime and pay reductions. They added that the “plant was not always able to take advantage of the government measure for short-time work”.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      C - Manufacturing C24 Manufacture of basic metals
      C29 Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers

This case is not occupation-specific.

Sources

  • 01 May 2020: Continental work conditions dire (merce.hu)
  • 14 August 2020: Dunaferr cancels collective agreement
  • 06 October 2020: Thousands not paid at Dunaferr

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Collective agreement changes during COVID-19, case HU-2020-31/1268 (measures in Hungary), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.