Hungarian rail strike is lifted, union vows to fight another day
Hungary's largest railworkers union has suspended a nationwide strike after eight days of cancellations, delays and misery for rail travellers, dpa reported.
The news came as a relief to thousands of Hungarians who plan to catch a train home for Christmas. Only the day before, union leaders were hinting that the strike might continue throughout the holiday season.
The leader of the Railway Workers Free Trade Union, Istvan Gasko, announced that the strike would be lifted at midnight on Monday (1100 GMT).
Although no agreement was reached with management, Gasko stressed that his organization is not backing down. Talks will resume on Tuesday, he said.
"The union is sticking to its demands, and if and when the strike committee sees that the time is right, the strike will begin again," Gasko told the press on Monday evening.
His organization, which represents a quarter of the employees of Hungarian State Railways (MAV), began a series of strikes with a one- day walkout on February 1. This was followed by two further strikes that month, then one-day strikes in both April and July.
Central to the union's demands is a one-off payment of 250,000 forints (1,325 dollars) for all of MAV's 40,000 employees. This, the union believes, is the employee's share of the proceeds of the recent privatisation of MAV Cargo, the unbundled freight wing of the loss- making state-owned rail firm.
The striking workers were also demanding a backdated, 10 per cent pay rise for all subcontracted workers.
Both MAV management and the Hungarian government have repeatedly dismissed the union's demands, particularly the windfall payment, out of hand.
Finance Minister Janos Veres last week called the demands of the striking workers "absurd", while Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany accused the rail union of blackmail and acting out of self interest.