National-level tripartite forums reformed

In July 2002, on the initiative of the Hungarian government, together with the social partners, an agreement was concluded to renew the national-level tripartite dialogue within the framework of a re-established National Interest Reconciliation Council.

On 27 July 2002, on the initiative of the government, together with the employers’ organisations and the trade unions, an agreement was concluded to renew cooperation within the framework of the reformed National Interest Reconciliation Council (Országos Érdekegyeztető Tanács, OÉT). The Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Economic Affairs and the Minister of Labour and Employment Policy represented the government in signing the deal, indicating the importance of the event (the Ministry of Labour and Employment Policy has recently been re-established - details will be provided in a future EIRO article). Employees were represented by all six national trade union confederations which had been part of earlier national-level tripartite forums (HU0206102N) and, in a similar way to earlier national-level tripartite forums, employers were represented by all nine national organisations.

The National Reconciliation Council, the first national-level tripartite forum, was initially set up by the last communist government in October 1988, but it lacked legitimacy as it originally included the National Council of Trade Unions (Szakszervezetek Országos Tanácsa, SZOT), which had been the traditional 'transmission belt' organisation of the state socialist system.

In 1990, the first democratically elected government re-established the forum as the Interest Reconciliation Council (Érdekegyeztetõ Tanács, ÉT) inviting the nine employers’ organisations and seven national-level trade union confederations which were deemed at that time to be nationally representative. Between 1990 and 1998, the responsibilities of the ÉT were expanded and it developed into a 'neo-corporatist' style forum dealing with a wide range of national economic and labour market issues. Despite trade union protests, in 1999 the right-wing conservative government led by the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége, FIDESZ) reorganised ÉT into two distinct bodies and cut back their competences in order to curtail the impact of the 'neo-corporatist' institutional framework in governmental decision-making.

In the 2002 general election campaign, one of the major points of the programme of the Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt, MSZP) was the reinforcement of social dialogue, and especially the re-establishment of a national-level interest representation body, in terms of both responsibilities and the willingness to negotiate of the government (HU0206101F). The MSZP was victorious in the election and now forms a coalition government with liberal Alliance of Free Democrats (Szabad Demokraták Szövetsége, SZDSZ).

The conclusion of the July 2002 agreement has formulated as a fundamental principle that Hungary's renewed system of 'interest reconciliation' should be shaped by a tripartite dialogue between the government and the social partners.

At its first meeting after being established by the new government, the new OÉT adopted an 'agreement on the renewal of interest reconciliation'. The agreement provides that the competence of the OÉT is considerably wider than that of the previous forum, and covers all issues related to the world of labour, including discussion over national economic policies, labour market development, tax and social security systems. The government and the social partners agreed that they will negotiate with a view to seeking agreement within the OÉT. It was also agreed that the OÉT will hold 12 meetings a year in order to be able to cover all the responsibilities specified by the government and the social partners.

All three sides have also agreed to develop a comprehensive system of 'meso-level' (sectoral, subsectoral or regional) social dialogue in order to harmonise the Hungarian industrial relations system with the practices of the EU Member States. As a starting point, they will seek the establishment of bipartite sectoral social dialogue committees, assisted by the government and funded by the EU.

The agreement also establishes the organisational structure of the OÉT. According to the agreement, the work of the OÉT will be assisted by a number of specialised bodies and special committees. The majority of these bodies had been set up by the predecessors of OÉT, and will work according to their own rules agreed upon in the past.

The specialised bodies are:

  • the National International Labour Organisation (ILO) Council;
  • the European Integration Council (Európai Integrációs Tanács, EIT); and
  • a new Sectoral Council (Ágazati Tanács, ÁT) with responsibility for directing the sectoral dialogue twinning programme under the EU's Phare programme, and assisting in the establishment of bipartite sectoral social dialogue committees.

The special committees cover:

  • collective agreements;
  • economics;
  • equal opportunity;
  • information and statistics;
  • the labour market;
  • labour law;
  • health and safety;
  • training and vocational training; and
  • social welfare.

The government and the social partners have agreed that the forum for consulting over strategic national issues and programmes will be the Economic and Social Council (Gazdasági és Szociális Tanács, GSZT). The GSZT will be a broad body representing all interests within the Hungarian society and economy, including the social partners.

The agreement also provides for the establishment of a distinct national-level interest reconciliation forum for the public sector - the Public Sector Interest Reconciliation Council (Közszolgálati Érdekegyeztető Tanács, KIÉT). The KIÉT will be composed of representatives of public sector unions and local government associations.

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