Airport strike may be near end, row breaks out over foreign temps

The unions behind a strike that has caused a week of chaos at Budapest's Ferihegy International Airport said on Tuesday that they are close to an agreement with management, dpa reported.

Union leader Zoltan Kovacs, after a meeting on Tuesday with the management of airport operator Budapest Airport (BA), said that the employer had agreed to consider written compromise proposals from the unions.

BA said it would review the proposals, Kovacs said, adding that he was confident that the employer would find the unions' proposals acceptable. If so, the strike would be called off immediately, Kovacs said. "We trust an agreement will be reached as soon as possible," he added.

Meanwhile a separate row was brewing over the strike-breaking tactics used by management. Budapest Airport announced on Tuesday morning that there would be no further cancellations because over half of a group of replacement security staff, some brought in from other EU countries, were on duty.

The temporary security staff, some brought in from Greece the previous day, meant that passengers were largely spared the long queues, delays and cancellations chaos seen at Budapest airport in recent days, although still only one of three passenger terminals was operational.

Unions had expressed outrage when they learned on Monday of the hiring of foreign temporary workers. BA management confirmed that a team of 23 Greek and 31 Hungarian temps were hired to cover for striking security staff.

After an official complaint from Hungarian workers' councils, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which represents around 60 million European workers, said on Tuesday that it found the use of foreign workers to be "particularly worrying."

In a statement sent to the Hungarian association of workers' councils, ETUC expressed support for the airport employees and called on BA management to respect the rights of unions and to negotiate with them while adhering to Hungarian labour law.

Hungary's main, centre-right opposition party Fidesz labelled BA management "undemocratic and un-European" for bringing in foreign workers to break the strike, especially against a background of nationwide job losses.

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