Students stage march for autonomy

Budapest court rules film, drama university staff strike unlawful

A Budapest court has declared a strike by staff members of Budapest's University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE) unlawful, the Theatre and Film Foundation, which oversees the university, and the institution's new leadership said. Students of SZFE meanwhile organised a protest march for the autonomy of higher education.

In a joint statement, the foundation and the new leadership noted that the institution’s strike committee had compiled a list of eight demands of which two had been met by SZFE’s leaders.

The university’s leadership has offered employees a phased 10-15 percent pay rise and has agreed to maintain their current working schedule, they said.

In its first-instance ruling, the Budapest Municipal Court ruled the strike organised by SZFE employees based on their remaining six demands unlawful, the statement said.

It also cited the court as saying that employees had begun the strike before the deadline for mandatory talks required by law with the university’s leadership had expired.

The foundation called on those participating in the strike to resume work under the management of the new leadership.

SZFE’s previous senate and leadership announced their resignation on Aug. 31, saying the foundation that took over the university on Sept. 1 under a government decree had deprived them of “all essential powers”. The students cordoned off the university’s main building and employees went on strike.

Thousands march for autonomy

Participants of the demonstration walked from the Technical University on the Buda side to SZFE’s campus in central Pest, where they commemorated the revolution and held speeches. The crowd filled Rakoczi Road between Vas Street and Elisabeth Bridge.

The demonstration was supported by trade unions and students of other universities.

Speaking on behalf of SZFE students Noemi Vilmos said that “Hungary is not doing better” and called on the government to resolve the country’s problems rather than “cover them up, lie, or blackmail”. Other student speakers warned that “what is happening to SZFE could happen to other universities, too”. They suggested that the government was expanding its powers and the “model shift” would be extended to other universities, too. “Don’t be afraid to stand up for your university, get organised and act up,” the speakers said.

Erzsebet Nagy, of teachers’ union PDSZ, said that the government was “systematically dismantling the autonomy” of institutions, and insisted that the same thing had happened when schools were centralised, with decisions made “far from the schools, in the ministries”. “The goal is not to raise autonomous citizens but ones that follow norms; the government wants slaves without rights, faithful supporters rather than educated minds,” she said. “There is no free country without free education,” Nagy added.

Tamas Szekely, deputy leader of trade union federation MSZSZ said that “everyone has the right to resist violence, and the way the government kicked in SZFE’s door was violence itself”.

Andrea Szkaliczki, a doctor, criticised a recent law on the legal status of medical professionals, and said that imposing restrictions on doctors working in secondary jobs would lead to the elimination of health services in many places. She also said that doctors subjected to a system in which they could be transferred from one place to the other without their consent was unacceptable.

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