Redesigning the relations between MSZP and MSZOSZ
The meeting of István Hiller, President of MSZP and Tamás Wittich, President of MSZOSZ marks a new era in the relationship between the Hungarian Socialist Party and one of the major Hungarian trade union confederations
The meeting of Tamás Wittich, President of National Association of Hungarian Trade Unions (Magyar Szakszervezetek Országos Szövetsége, MSZOSZ), and István Hiller, recently elected President of Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt, MSZP) took place 22 March 2005. MSZP and MSZOSZ announced that they will work to develop close strategic co-operation in the future.
The meeting, which did not produce a written co-operation agreement, may represent a watershed in the history of co-operation between the party and the union. Both MSZP and MSZOSZ were reformed and democratised heir organisations of the former ruling party and monopoly union organisation, respectively. Following the political transition they severed their official strategic relationship, and MSZOSZ declared to be a politically independent union confederation. None the less, key union leaders of several major unions belonging to MSZOSZ have been members of parliament as socialist party nominees. The relationship between the party and the union became burdened by tensions following the introduction of an economic stabilisation package in 1995 under the first socialist-led government. This fact did not save MSZOSZ from accusations in the period of the right-wing conservative government between 1998-2002 that it acted in practice as an allied force of MSZP. In the pre-elections alliance in 2002, MSZOSZ did not officially sign an agreement with MSZP, only major unions of MSZOSZ declared their support. Also, this time none of the union leaders ran for MP as MSZP nominees.
This time the agreement officially declares the alliance between MSZOSZ and MSZP. Within the framework of this co-operation agreement, the two organisations will work closely together in fields of strategic policy making and will develop joint programs. The experts of MSZOSZ will join the team preparing the 2006 elections program of the party, and will also participate in the preparation of the forthcoming second National Development Program for the period 2007-13. The parties also agreed to review the Labour Code jointly this autumn, although a full revision will only be possible after the 2006 elections. A consensus was reached that MSZP will support the legislation to make 24 December to be a rest day and to make the 20 minutes mealtime provided by the Labour Code to be part of the paid 8 hours working time, instead of an additional non-paid period, which currently makes the working day 8 and half hours long. The parties also agreed to involve union representatives in the work of labour inspectorates. The party and the union will jointly commemorate May Day, which certainly will have a demonstrative effect.
The President of MSZP declared that MSZOSZ is a strategic ally of the party and that the recent agreement was a product of the pre-election cooperation agreement between 35 major unions of MSZOSZ and MSZP, which arguably had been decisive in the 2002 elections campaign. According to the evaluation of MSZP, '7 and half issues out of the 9' agreed on in 2002 have been implemented since it has been the major party of the current MSZP-SZDSZ coalition government. The President of MSZOSZ, in turn, said that the agreement established a long-term cooperation between the two organisations. The President of MSZOSZ, however, underlined that the spectacular increase of real wages in recent years had benefited blue collar workers the least who were the hardest hit by closures of enterprises and by the increasing stream of relocation of low value added manufacturing activities to low wage countries. MSZOSZ also urged to come up with a solution to ensure the representation of labour in the control of social security funds. (András Tóth and László Neumann, Institute of Political Science, Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
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