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Budapest transit workers plan 8-day strike in April

Workers for Budapest’s public transit authority (BKV) will hold an eight-day strike in April after the breakdown of negotiations for wage increases, reports index.hu.

The strike, which will begin at midnight on April 18, was announced by two BKV unions after their demand for a 30 percent wage increase over three years was denied by the transit authority.

During the strike, there will reportedly be times when no BKV vehicles will operate at all as the unions plan to use loopholes in rules regarding “satisfactory service” to suspend transportation entirely. By law, at least 60 percent of vehicles must be in service during every hour of the first day of the strike. From then on, however, the law requires that 60 percent of vehicles be in service on average per day, meaning the unions can consolidate non-service periods into hours of the day where no vehicles will operate.

Many of the city’s transportation lines are operated by subcontracting companies, which will not be affected by the strike. Budapest’s regional commuter rail service HÉV will also continue to run, since it was merged into Hungarian State Railways (MÁV) last year.

The unions argued that they too should benefit from the three-year, 30 percent wage increase at public companies that was awarded by the government earlier this year. The two BKV unions calling the strike earlier sent an open letter to BKV, warning not only of a strike but mass resignations and worker shortages if BKV workers do not receive wage increases.

According to the letter, 10 percent of BKV’s 9,600 employees left the company in 2016, leading to skill shortages; 26 engineers, 248 skilled workers, and 452 drivers left last year. BKV will reportedly have to hire some 1,000 workers this year, which might prove to be a difficult task as insufficient applications for employment are coming in to the company despite recruitment attempts. The unions argue that if BKV cannot offer competitive wages, staff shortages will worsen and fewer vehicles will operate, which would disrupt vehicle maintenance and traffic management.

BKV leadership announced that it had taken note of the coming strike, and emphasized that it remains committed to wage increases and to working together with employees to avoid work stoppages. The city of Budapest has turned to the central government to assist in providing the necessary funds for wage increases.

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