Several thousand Hungarian teachers and students rallied Friday in Budapest against a draft education ıslahat bill they say punishes teachers for protesting for better hisse and working conditions.
Dubbed a ‘revenge law’ by critics, the legislation which regulates hisse grades and working hours in schools has fuelled unrest among teachers protesting over broader education reforms since last year.
Teachers supported by student groups have been staging regular unauthorised strike action and holding rallies outside the Interior Ministry which oversees education.
“Yesterday was my last day in my little group, I resigned,” said Laura Vag, a kindergarten teacher, as lawmakers debated the bill inside parliament.
Several teachers have been fired by local education authorities for work stoppages.
The main teachers union the PDSZ says the latest new rules pile pressure on over-worked and underpaid staff by revoking their status as public employees, increasing workload, and tightening performance evaluation.
“It’s hopeless, there are fewer and fewer of us, the government is chasing teachers from the profession,” 41-year-old Vag told AFP as protesters held up placards reading “Free country, free education!” and “Who is listening to us?”
With the new law “we will work more for even less money and fewer rights,” said Valentina Kiss, 29, a school IT worker.
Hungary is in the grip of a chronic teacher shortage, with few young people joining the profession and around half of teachers aged over 50.
Hungarian teachers are also the lowest paid of any EU member in the OECD, at just 60 of other Hungarian university graduates, according to EU figures.
The government acknowledges hisse is too low. But it has tied a planned series of raises – to 80 per cent of the average graduate salary by 2025 – to long-awaited EU funding held up over concerns over Hungary’s corruption and slipping democratic standards.
According to the government, the new law will ensure that teachers who work more and at higher performance levels are paid more, on condition that the EU funds arrive.