Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries
Edited By Craig Phelan
The State of Trade Unionism in Hungary 395
LÁSZLÓ NEUMANN The State of Trade Unionism in Hungary 1. Introduction Prior to World War II Hungarian craft unions had about 100,000 members. Large scale industrialisation and an enormous expansion of the working class took place from the 1950s onward. Following the communist takeover (1948) unions were reorganised into 19 industrial branch union federations overseen by a monolithic confederation, the National Council of Trade Unions (Szakszervezetek Országos Tanácsa, SZOT). Due to a burgeoning industrial workforce and to virtually compulsory membership, official trade unions claimed almost 4.4 million members in the mid-1980s, representing about 96 per cent of all wage earners. Following 1988, during the transition from state socialism to multi-party democracy and a free market economy, the trade union movement also underwent a process of democratisation and reorganisation, involving a major crisis from which it has yet to recover. 2. The Historical Origins of Trade Union Confederations Hungary's first free union movement was created by academic researchers and professionals in 1988, on the eve of the democratic transition. The new union confederation, the Democratic League of Independent Trade Unions (LIGA), along with the newly established opposition parties, took part in the political negotiations that led in 1990 to the first free general elections. When Hungary restored László Neumann 396 parliamentary democracy, LIGA lost its principal function and much of its momentum. Although several new grassroots unions conducted successful organising efforts, overall membership did not grow after 1991. Local grievances fuelled the spontaneous emergence of Wor-...
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