The struggle of interests has triumphed, the government has finally bowed to the demands of teachers – this is how István Ujhelyi assessed the fact that the Fidesz government’s new operational programme submitted to Brussels recently now includes a significant increase in the average salary of teachers.
At his online press conference on Wednesday, the MSZP MEP stressed, however, that the original government package submitted earlier for spending EU funds did not contain a single word about the settlement of teachers’ salaries, meaning that the government propaganda that teachers’ salaries cannot be raised because of Brussels or the “intrigue” of Hungarian left-wing MEPs is a blatant lie.
According to Ujhelyi, the government lied to the teachers and society at large, since the commitment to pay teachers was only included in the government’s EU plan after teachers started demonstrating and the European Union identified the sector’s pay settlement as a requirement and a priority. He added that, on top of all this, the drawdown of the EU funds intended for this purpose, i.e. the implementation of the pay rise, depends solely on the Orbán government and its failure to uphold the guarantees of the rule of law.
The MSZP MEP recalled that back in the day, the Social Democrats had already warned that the original plan submitted by the government would not be acceptable to the EU either in form or in content, due to the lack of consultation and the proposals ignoring the real situation in the country. Ujhelyi said that an important achievement was that the government – thanks to the effective work of Minister Tibor Navracsics – had realised over time that “if you ask the EU for money, you also have to consider the professional proposals.”
According to the Socialist MEP, the government document sent to Brussels describes with surprising honesty and self-criticism the crisis in education and that one of the important solutions to this crisis is to increase teachers’ salaries; the commitments now made are also finally largely in line with the country-specific recommendations issued by the European Commission. István Ujhelyi said in a video broadcast on his social media page that the government plans to spend around one billion euros, or roughly 400 billion forints, from the new package it has recently presented called the Human Resources Development Programme Plus. This will be spent (supplemented later, of course, with state resources) on financing the teachers’ career model as part of a budget framework programme of nearly 13 thousand billion forints until 2027, committing to raise the average salary of teachers to at least 80 per cent of the average salary of graduates.
At the press briefing, MEP István Ujhelyi also pointed out that “this is winning only the first half of the match”, as it will be futile to reach an agreement on professional issues on the basis of the rewritten and newly submitted programme plan if they only remain on paper, because the funds will still be unavailable due to objections on the rule of law. According to Ujhelyi, although Tibor Navracsics can successfully negotiate the technical objections, the issue of freezing the funds depends on a significant change in Viktor Orbán and his policies, such as the elimination of state corruption and ensuring the independence of the judiciary and the media, which in turn depends solely on the political decision of the government, or more precisely the Prime Minister. “If even a single forint is lost, it is the sole responsibility of Orbán and his government,” István Ujhelyi confirmed.
Brussels/Budapest – 3/8/2022