Hungarians widen protests over teachers’ pay as cost-of-living crisis deepens

REUTERS/Marton Monus
Students takes part in a live-chain protest in support of teachers fighting for higher wages in Budapest, Hungary, November 18, 2022.

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian teachers, students and parents stepped up their protest calling for higher wages and education reforms on Friday, forming a 10-km (six-mile) human chain in central Budapest, with smaller rallies held across the country.

Teachers launched their “I want to teach” movement in September, calling for civil disobedience to demand higher wages for teachers and an adequate supply in the workforce. They are also protesting against restrictions on their right to strike.

Several teachers were dismissed at a Budapest secondary school for joining the movement, with nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban navigating his toughest economic challenge since taking power in a 2010 landslide.

Fuelled by the fallout from the war in neighbouring Ukraine and falls in the forint currency to record lows, Hungarian inflation is on track to scale a 26-year-high next year, while analysts polled by Reuters expect economic growth to stall.

“What I am really missing is that I cannot live the life of a person with a degree,” 43-year-old history teacher Janos Dzsida, a father of two married to a fellow teacher, said at the Budapest rally.

“We cannot afford to go to the theatre, to the opera, or any cultural event and I think it is a shame on the government of Hungary,” he said standing on a bridge and waving to cars honking in support of the protesters.

From their combined monthly salaries of just over 500,000 forints ($1,270), they barely have anything left after paying rent and bills.

Orban’s government said it would raise teachers’ salaries once the European Commission releases EU recovery funding that has been withheld amid a dispute over the rule of law and democratic checks and balance.