Warning strike at Budapest Ferihegy Airport

On 14 December 2003, a two-hour warning strike was held at Budapest Ferihegy Airport, Hungary, organised by trade unions at Budapest Airport Corporation in protest against proposed job losses and restructuring. However, a successful meeting between unions and management led to a proposed one-day strike being called off and agreement to continue negotiations with the help of a mediator.

In early December 2003, several sources confirmed that Budapest Airport Corporation (BA), which operates Budapest Ferihegy Airport, was planning to dismiss 150 employees and to contract out a number of loss-making services (in the first round, the airport minibus service). These measures were in accordance with a call by the government - the owner of the company - to reduce staff by 10% (HU0310101N). In an unprecedented display of cooperation, the 14 trade unions representing BA employees called a one-day strike to protest against the plans of the new management (appointed only six months previously). The walk-out was planned to coincide with the Christmas rush (19 December).

János Hárskuti, the BA chief executive officer, said that the staff cuts would affect fewer than 10% of employees, and would apply equally to managerial, administrative and operational workers. Mr Hárskuti also declared that the management, when contracting out the unprofitable minibus service, had agreed with the purchaser, Volánbusz, to transfer 209 BA employees to the new company and to maintain their employment for at least another five years.

Trade union representatives interpret the situation differently. Zoltán Kovács, president of the BA works council, and Alfréd Pető, president of the Airport Traffic Workers' Union (Repülőtéri Forgalmi Dolgozók Szakszervezete), said that the management had disregarded the unions' recommendations: while staff cuts in general might be acceptable, the method chosen was questionable. They claimed that BA management had ignored the fact that many of the employees concerned would prefer to retire or opt for a pre-pension scheme, while many others were ready to accept voluntary redundancy. The union representatives also complained that the management had failed to provide them with any calculations concerning provisional benefits.

As a first step, three trade unions organised a two-hour warning strike on 14 December, in advance of the one-day strike on 19 December. At this point, however, the situation developed rapidly. After a successful meeting on 15 December, the parties agreed to continue negotiations with the help of a mediator provided by the Labour Mediation and Arbitration Service (Munkaügyi Közvetítő és Döntőbirói Szolgálat, MKDSZ). The management promised to look again at the measures it had proposed, while the trade unions decided to cancel the one-day strike.

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