On December 6 2013 the founding congress of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation took place in Budapest. Through the integration of the Autonomous Trade Union Confederation (ASZSZ), the National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions (MSZOSZ) and the Forum for the Co-operation of Trade Unions (SZEF) the largest interest representation organisation in Hungary has been created with 250000 active and 100000 pensioner members.
The new confederation aims at more efficient representation of workers, employees in the private, public sectors and in public utilities. The message of the congress, as stated by Péter Pataky is that workers, employees must not be afraid, since without them there is no performance, achievements. Working people should know that “they do not stand alone - the union backs them”. The new unified confederation will be a correct negotiating partner to the employers and the government, but will not make any compromise which would worsen the lives of the people. The confederation expects to be heard at every forum of interest concertation.
Tamás Székely, president of the ASZSZ criticised the government for not “liking” employees and not recognising trade unions – therefore this unification is the right step in the right moment for maintaining the independence of unions. The compromises among the integrating partners serve the maintaining of the autonomy of the branches and provide ground for the remaking of solidarity among them.
László Varga president of (SZEF) underlined the necessity of strengthening solidarity, uniting intellectual, material resources, and while preserving the past and present values, building a unified, effective organisational model to meet the challenges. Varga stated that the new confederation is not aimed against anyone, it is open to all trade unions, confederations. It aims at more effective representation and defence of common interests of Hungarian employees regardless of sectors, workplaces and employers. “We should dare to be national and European at the same time, as the two values can be strengthened only together.”
On behalf of the employers’ federations, Mr. Zoltán Zs. Szőke Zoltán, chairman of the ÁFEOSZ-Coop group addressed the congress, emphasising that this day the Hungarian trade union movement is part of a historical event. He underlined that employers and workers, employees have common interests: to be more successful as actors of the economy, and to provide and secure workplaces with decent wages for more people.
The congress participants were also greeted by Sándor Czomba, secretary of state of the Ministry of National Economy, who transmitted the good wishes of the government.
The unification congress was adressed by Bernadette Ségol, secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation, who congratulated to this step, stating that the unification is beneficial to the union members and to the whole of the trade union movement: „unity is your strength, because your strength is increasing the strength of the whole trade union movement.” (speech of Segol attached).
The secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Sharan Burrow, adressed the unification congress through a video message
A number of partner trade unions from abroad have also sent messages of greetings to the congress.
The congress adopted the Statutes and the Programme of the unified Confederation. The president of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation is Péter Pataky (MSZOSZ), the vice-president are Tamás Székely (ASZSZ) and László Varga (SZEF), the chair of the Finance control committee is Gabriella Rajcsányiné dr. Gróf (MSZOSZ).
Following the election, the new president Pataky underlined the tasks ahead: unions must reinforce or re-create the necessary abilities to better serve the membership and to make trade unionism more appealing.
Trade unions must get stronger through organising, but not through taking members from each other. Unions need to extend their relations and build networks with the civil society.
„President and friends,
It gives me great pleasure to be with you today.
It really does.
Yesterday, a man died who marked the 20th century. Nelson Mandela. What did he do? He opposed, with determination the nasty apartheid regime; he stood for his ideas without being moved for as long as was necessary and, when the right condition were there, a dialogue and a negotiation could start. We all admire this determination, this strength, this true authority at the service of social justice.
With this opposition, determination, strength and true authority, he changed the course of history.
I am glad to be here today, with you, and refer to this example at a time when you, in Hungary, are showing determination, strength and authority to change the course of things.
And I'd like to congratulate you most warmly on behalf of the European Trade Union Confederation.
The step you are taking today is very good news.
Very good news for the members you represent, very good news for the trade union movement.
Because your unity is your strength, because your strength is increasing the strength of the whole trade union movement.
Indeed, I am convinced that together you can, and together we can.
Trade unions are standing to improve the life and working condition of their members.
And trade unions want to do that not as narrow minded corporations, but taking into consideration the future of their society.
Trade unions are standing for democracy: there is no democracy without free trade unions.
These objectives they have to carry using all the tools and all the strength at their disposal;
They have to use opposition, sometimes even rebellion. They have the power to say no. To say NO - enough is enough - it is necessary to unite and have a joint oppositional front. This is what you are doing.
Trade unions also must also be ready to dialogue; when conditions are ripe, when there are windows of opportunity, then dialogue can start; in a dialogue you will be a stronger interlocutor if you are united.
Trade unions have another essential function: negotiation. In companies, at local or sectoral level you will be stronger in negotiations if you represent a bigger number of members.
I am also convinced that your organisation will be more attractive to potential new members if it becomes clearer that you are keeping, and promoting, together, the essential trade union values.
The step you are taking today is not simple; you probably have not solved all problems. I would be very surprised if you had.
You already overcame difficulties, but there are certainly more to come; it's not an easy process to unite; structures have their resistance; people felt at home in their own confederation; they have to adjust to new horizons; some might be destabilised.
Because unity does not only come from a top down decision, it must, gradually, be built internally. You, your members will have to make this new organisation, your organisation.
So, every time there is a problem, hard discussion, and even conflicts, think that this problem or this conflict must be overcome one way or another, for the good of the people. We all must have a wider perspective.
As General Secretary of the ETUC, I'll do my very best to try and accompany this process and make it as smooth as possible.
Your country is full of fascinating history, full of fascinating culture, full of fascinating people. The move you are initiating today is and will remain part of your country's history.
Friends I wish you all the best.
We’ll keep in close contact and help each other.