A big rally in front of the Parliament in Budapest, Hungary’s capital, on Saturday was organized by trade unions and citizens seeking greater pay and the freedom to strike.
Over 10,000 teachers and students reportedly crowded the plaza, many of them wore plaid shirts, which have been a symbol of teachers in recent years.
The demonstrators were holding signs such as “We continue to teach, despite meager salaries,” “There is no future without teachers,” and “Who is going to teach tomorrow?”
For years, teachers have demanded quick salary settlements and workload cutbacks from the government.
Following months of failed discussions between the government and the labor unions, strikes were staged at schools in Budapest and other major Hungarian towns on March 16. Teachers want a wage raise, a decrease in their mandatory working hours, and an increase in the salaries of non-teaching school workers.
A government order took away the teachers’ ability to mount a visible and substantive strike two weeks after they held a warning strike on Jan. 31.
“Teachers are angry because the government has made it impossible for them to strike instead of negotiating better conditions, and giving them more respect,” Peter Lisztes, an 18-year-old student, told Xinhua.
Teachers’ salaries in Hungary are very low, about 207,000 forints net (613 U.S. dollars) per month, according to a report of local website hrportal.hu. (1 U.S. dollar = 337.83 fronts).