Istvan Ujhelyi – Photo:

Socialist MEP accuses government of ‘lying’ about teacher wage hikes

Socialist Party MEP Istvan Ujhelyi has accused the government of "lying" about the wage hikes demanded by teachers, saying he had been "surprised" to hear Hungarian officials say that Brussels was the one blocking the pay rises.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Ujhelyi said that a proposal submitted by the government almost two years ago on how it intended to spend the nearly 13,000 billion forints’ (EUR 32.6bn) worth of European Union funding Hungary is entitled to in the 2021-2027 budgetary period “contained no mention of wage hikes for teachers”.

Ujhelyi said his party had warned back then that the proposal would be rejected by EU institutions because it had been drafted without any consultations with those concerned. “There’s a reason why Hungary and the EU have not reached an agreement,” he said.

Ujhelyi said teacher unions and interest representation groups had “won” their fight for higher wages, arguing that the government had amended its proposal to earmark around 400 billion forints for pay hikes for teachers.

He said Tibor Navracsics, the minister in charge of the uptake of EU funds, had understood that “when asking for money it’s important to consider the professional requirements set by European institutions”.

Ujhelyi insisted, however, that teachers had only secured a “half-time win”, arguing that Hungary would only be given access to the EU monies if it settled “the issues around the rule of law”.

“Otherwise those promises will be nothing but funds available on paper and [the government] won’t be seeing any of it,” the MEP said. “Any single forint lost is the responsibility of [Prime Minister] Viktor Orban and the Hungarian government.”

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