Hungary: Labour Law Highlights in 2017

28.11.2017

Increased activity of the labour unions in Hungary

One of the most notable phenomena of 2017 in the field of employment law was the increased activity of labour unions. Especially now, before the end of year, employers are receiving more and more requests from trade unions to already be included in the employers’ budget-planning processes for next year. Their aim is to ensure appropriate wage development for employees.

Since manpower needs in western European countries is draining the labour force in Hungary, there is a particular lack in the available workforce of blue-collar workers in particular. Therefore, labour unions are taking advantage of this unfavourable situation for employers and more frequently initiating negotiations with employers for wage increases and better working conditions. Employers operating at big industrial parks are in particular the targets of the trade unions because any intense activity of one trade union at a given employer spreads to the neighbouring employers very quickly. The grouping of trade unions into national associations is also assisting the development of the collective enforcement of interests. Local trade unions therefore usually belong to one big national association of trade unions, which also provides them with financial and legal support so that they can promote their interests before the local employer. It is thus strongly recommended that professional legal assistance is also engaged by employers so that they can protect their business interests.

Although it is relatively easy to establish a trade union - based on the fundamental right of freedom - the Hungarian Labour code does not automatically grant every trade union which is established strong rights which then can enforce against employers. This means that trade unions have to meet additional statutory requirements specified by the Hungarian Labour Code in order to exercise the rights provided for by the Labour Code. Such requirements are the statutory principles of legitimacy and representation relating to certain legal requirements and certain membership numbers, which many local trade unions find it difficult to meet.

Conclusions: It is strongly advisable for employers to involve professional legal experts in the field of employment law, in order to establish a successful strategy against trade unions, and to enable them to take effective action against and carry out successful negotiations with trade unions while protecting the business interests of the employer.