Social dialogue & conflict resolution mechanisms

Social Dialogue and Conflict Resolution Mechanisms: conciliation, mediation, arbitration in Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovenia - Workshop

Prague, 29-31 October 2003

Discussion paper - abstract - Beáta Nacsa
Lecturer of Labour Law,
Faculty of Law, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Conflict resolution mechanisms in Hungary

Hungary is not tormented by frequent and long lasting industrial actions. Strikes and other industrial actions are used as only the ultima ratio of industrial relations. It does not mean, however, that there would not be reasons for even long-lasting and forceful industrial actions, since it seems that the interests and demands of the wage-earners are frequently overshadowed by for example the interest of the state to keep the national budget in balance or by interests and demands of other interest-groups. Several commentators say that the Hungarian workers are not organised enough and their trade unions are too much fragmented as compared with their task to represent the workers in such challenging times. Higher level of organisation especially among the youth and more concentration of power and/or more efficient cooperation among unions would obviously improve the interest enforcement capacity of labour, both in case of negotiations and industrial actions. As it was mentioned above, the dominance of tripartism formed the Hungarian industrial relations system too much one-centred and retarded the development of other aspects of industrial relations. Most probably, setting up forums of sectoral social dialogue will partly eliminate the pit falls stemming from this one-sidedness. The organic growth of industrial relations has been also hindered by the direct interference of the government to the relations of the social partners, especially between 1998-2002.

Focusing more closely on the actual conflict resolution system of Hungary, it seems that the cornerstones of methods of peaceful dispute resolution have been put down; nevertheless their utilization is rather unsatisfactory

The services of the MKDSZ are requested for only in a limited number of cases and far below the capacity of the organisation. Further campaigning to make the organisation known, strengthening its independency especially from the State, and widening the scope of its activity might provide the MKDSZ with a more intensive role in the field of labour dispute resolution.

The scope of activity of the MKDSZ could be expanded towards special consultations and mediations in cases when the parties do not agree in the formulation of a new collective agreement covering not only wage issues but a much wider scope of matters. Before passing the Act on mediation, the leadership of the MKDSZ had a distinct aspiration to widen the Service’s scope of activities towards individual legal disputes. In 2000 the Rules of Procedure was modified in order to entitle the mediators to take part in the settlement of collective labour disputes. Further widening of the scope of activity could be considered: mediation in individual labour disputes, especially in cases when all or most of the employees of one employer are suffering from the same breach of law, e.g. when the employer systematically violates the law on overwork, or on annual paid leave. According to our recent experience, in such cases (which can be considered a minor breach of law compared to an unlawful dismissal) the employees are very reluctant to file the case to the court because of not willing to risk any further retaliation upon them. The rapid and effective settlement of such conflicts is hindered by the Art. 23 of LC., which ordains that the unions are not entitled to veto in such cases covering all relevant employees. In my view, mediation between the union and the employer could solve such mass-legal-disputes relatively quickly, at little cost and without putting into the forefront any individual employee. This suggestion correlates with the recent developments of the actual practice of MKDSZ: the MKDSZ sometimes gets requests to mediation in disputes of rights.

Sticking to the subject of legal disputes, some further remarks should be devoted to the mediation attempt which is accomplished by the labour court judges at the beginning of the first hearing. In practice this court-mediation does not work because the judges does not feel called for mediating the matter since they are trained and socialised to adjudicate a legal case. This adverse practice could be remedied either by training the judges of the labour courts to the basics of mediations, or by finding other way for a preliminary reconciliation of the matter.

The use of certain notions related to the methods of dispute resolutions is not well-established, sometimes even confusing and therefore hinders the inveteracy of the new forms of dispute resolution: e.g. the word mediation (közvetítés) is used for solving disputes of interests in the Labour Code. The Act on Mediation (a közvetítoi tevékenységrol) defines mediation as a method of resolving disputes of rights, when the Labour Code calls the mediation in disputes of labour rights békéltetés.

As it was referred to above, there is a serious doubt over the constitutionality of the agreement on strike in the civil service. Further research and negotiations are needed to investigate this question especially in relation to the rights and obligations of the parties of the civil service relationship in general.

In connection with a newly emerging and strengthening actor of the labour market, the group of independent contractors, which has already organised an industrial action in 2002, further talks are needed to formulate the channels of their interest representation and the methods of resolving their disputes of interests.

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